Stalin, 17 DMK MLAs move HC challenging fresh breach of privilege notices

NEWS STATES TAMIL NADU
TAMIL NADU
Stalin, 17 DMK MLAs move HC challenging fresh breach of privilege notices
M.K. Stalin. File Photo.
M.K. Stalin. File Photo.
Legal Correspondent
CHENNAI 12 SEPTEMBER 2020 17:02 IST
UPDATED: 12 SEPTEMBER 2020 16:57 IST

Earlier the Madras High Court on August 25 held that the privilege notices issued to the DMK MLAs had foundational error
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M.K. Stalin and 17 other MLAs of his party have moved the Madras High Court challenging fresh breach of privilege notices to them on September 7 for having displayed gutkha (chewing tobacco) sachets in the Assembly on July 19, 2017 to prove that the banned substance was available across the State.

Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy had on August 25 this year held that the notices issued to the MLAs on August 28, 2017 suffered from a foundational error of assuming that their conduct was prohibited as per a May 23, 2017 government notification through which only manufacture, transportation, storage, distribution and sale of gutkha had been banned.

Disposing of their writ petitions pending since 2017, the first Division Bench, however, left it open to the Committee of Privileges to deliberate upon the matter and proceed accordingly if it was still of the opinion that a breach of the privileges of the House had indeed been committed by the 21 MLAs who had displayed the sachets in the Assembly without seeking the Speaker’s prior approval.

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Though as many as 21 DMK MLAs, including the Leader of the Opposition Mr. Stalin, had challenged the beach of privilege notices issued to them in 2017, two had died by the time their cases was taken up for final hearing last month and one more Ku Ka Selvam was expelled from the party. However, since the latter engaged a separate lawyer to conduct his case, that writ petition was also clubbed with the common judgement passed on the batch of cases.

Now, in his latest affidavit, Mr. Stalin said the Committee of Privileges had met on August 25, the same day when the High Court had ruled that the earlier notices suffered from foundational errors, and decided to issue fresh notices. Accordingly, the Secretary of the Legislative Assembly issued notices to him and 18 other MLAs on September 7 seeking explanation as to why they should not be punished for breach of the privileges of the House.

In the new notices, the Committee of Privileges had cited grounds such as alleged disturbance caused to the Assembly proceedings on July 19, 2017; setting a bad precedent and causing disorder and bringing disrepute to the proceedings of the Assembly as reasons for deciding to proceed against the MLAs. The notices issued on September 7 had called upon the 19 MLAs to submit their explanation by September 14 when the Assembly was scheduled to convene.

Stating that the date fixed for submitting the reply was not coincidental or innocuous, the Leader of the Opposition said the malafide intention was writ large on the face of the notice as it’s primary objective was to prevent him and other MLAs from attending the upcoming Assembly session. He claimed that the present notices also suffer from the same foundational errors pointed out by the court. It was further brought to the notice of the court that both the notices arose out of the suo motu reference made by the Speaker to the Privileges Committee on July 19, 2017

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