Constitution Bench to decide whether Parliamentary Standing Committee’s report can be relied as evidence

Supreme Court: The Bench of Dipak Misra and R.F. Nariman, JJ referred the matter relating to referring and relying upon the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee in a litigation filed before this Court either under Article 32 or Article 136 of the Constitution of India, before a Constitution Bench regard being had to the substantial question of law relating to interpretation of the Constitution involved.

The Court also asked the Constitution Bench to decide as to was as to whether such a Report can be looked at for the purpose of reference and, if so, can there be restrictions for the purpose of reference regard being had to the concept of parliamentary privilege and the delicate balance between the constitutional institutions that Articles 105, 121 and 122 of the Constitution conceive.

The Court was hearing the petition relating to action taken by the Drugs Controller General of India and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) pertaining to approval of a vaccine, namely, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)  for preventing cervical cancer in women and the experimentation of the vaccine was done as an immunization by the Governments of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, before bifurcation, and the 81st Report dated 22nd December, 2014 of the Parliamentary Standing Committee was brought into the notice of the Court

The Court was of the prima facie opinion that the Parliamentary Standing Committee report may not be tendered as a document to augment the stance on the factual score that a particular activity is unacceptable or erroneous. It was opined that the view of a member of the Parliament or a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee who enjoys freedom of speech and expression within the constitutional parameters and the rules or regulations framed by the Parliament inside the Parliament or the Committee is not to be adverted to by the court in a lis. Explaining the nature of the reports, the Court said that the reference to Constituent Assembly debates, reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committee and the speeches made in the Parliament or for that matter, debates held in Parliament are only meant for understanding the Constitution or the legislation, as the case may be. It is quite different than to place reliance upon Parliamentary Standing Committee report as a piece of evidence to establish a fact. [Kalpana Mehta v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 390, decided on 05.04.2017]

 

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