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Breaking: Supreme Court can rely on Parliamentary Standing Committee Reports in A. 32, 136 petitions

Murali Krishnan

The Supreme Court today ruled that it can place reliance upon Parliamentary Standing Committee Reports in cases filed before it under Article 32 or Article 136 of the Constitution.

The judgment was rendered by a Constitution bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan.  

Three separate but concurring judgments were delivered – by CJI Dipak Misra, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan.

The Court held that there is no reason to exclude Parliamentary Standing Committee Reports from judicial process and the Court can rely on them.

Taking judicial note of such reports will not be a breach of parliamentary privilege, the Court held.

However, Parliamentary Committee Reports cannot be challenged in courts.

The case in question was a Public Interest Litigation filed by one Kalpana Mehta, which had sought direction to cancel licences of two vaccines, which had been used on tribal women in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat for treatment of cervical cancer.

Mehta had alleged that the vaccines marketed in India by MSD Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd and GlaxoSmithKline Ltd — Gardasil and Cervarix — were unproven and hazardous.

The Court had issued notice in the case in 2013.

A Parliamentary Standing Committee report had, in 2014, concluded that a PATH/Government of AP/Government of Gujarat HPV vaccine experiment constituted “a serious breach of medical ethics (and)… a clear cut violation of the human rights of these girl children and adolescents.”

The petitioner relied upon this report to seek the issuance of a direction from the Court to cancel the licenses of the said vaccines. The court in its judgment noted that it is prima facie of the view that the Parliamentary Standing Committee report may not be tendered as a document to augment the stance on a factual score. However, stating that this is a substantial question of law, it chose to refer the matter to a Constitution Bench.

The following questions were framed by the Division Bench which were then considered by the Constitution Bench while hearing the matter:

Whether in a litigation filed before this Court either under Article 32 or Article 136 of the Constitution of India, the Court can refer to and place reliance upon the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee? 

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?

Read the judgment below.

Kalpana-Mehta-judgment.pdf
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