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High Court sets aside expulsion of Telangana Congress MLAs

High Court sets aside expulsion of Telangana Congress MLAs

Varun Chirumamilla

Justice B Siva Sankara Rao of the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh High Court has set aside the expulsion of two Congress legislators by the State Legislature.

Komatireddy Venkat Reddy and A Sampath Kumar were expelled for disorderly behavior during Governor ESL Narasimhan’s joint address to both houses of Assembly on March 12 this year.

They were expelled after the Chairman of the Telangana Legislative Council Swamy Goud was hurt by an object hurled at him from the benches, during the gubernatorial address.

One of the main grouses of the petitioners was that principles of natural justice had not been followed. They had not been issued notices, they had no opportunity to defend their conduct, and they had not been made privy to the video recordings of the incident alleged to have condemned them.

“…nor the respondents have given them any notice & opportunity to explain in that regard, leave about even date neither the proceedings of the resolution contemplated by Rule 2(1)(s) fully uploaded nor supplied to the petitioners nor even the video footage supplied to the petitioners despite notice issued way back on 14.03.2018 nor even produced the same before the Court…”

The State had first said that they would provide video footage of the fracas, but ultimately took a u-turn, stating it was legislative privilege. Advocate General D Prakash Reddy, who had committed to provide the footage on behalf of the state, resigned days later.

One petitioner had claimed that the video footage would prove his innocence.

While recognising the clear separation of powers betwen the three organs of the State, the Court relied on a Division Bench judgement of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Jagjit Singh v. State Of Haryana, to illustrate the narrow window within which they were mandated to interfere.

“…it is likewise well settled that the non-compliance with the principles of natural justice is one of the limited grounds on which judicial review could be undertaken against the internal proceedings of the legislative bodies in appropriate cases as held in Jagjit Singh supra.”

The Court also relied on Amarinder Singh v. Special Committee Punjab Vidhan Sabha to underline the fact that legislative privileges to act against citizens were restricted to ensuring the smooth conduct of the business of the House.

“There is a distinction between privilege and function, though it is not always apparent. On the whole, however, it is more convenient to reserve the term `privilege’ to certain fundamental rights of each House which are generally accepted as necessary for the exercise of its constitutional function”

Relying on this, and references to several judgments of the Supreme Court, which defined the right of the accused to respond, Justice Rao held that the petitioners’ rights had been violated.

Ravi Shankar Jandhyala appeared for the petitioners, while the Additional Advocate General J Ramachandra Rao appeared for the State.

Read the order