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Can a Parliamentary Committee Report be relied upon to issue a writ of mandamus?
A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Rohinton Nariman yesterday referred a case that brought up this question to a Constitution Bench.
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 Bench for the purpose of reference:
(i) 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?
(ii) 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 34 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 matter was then directed to be placed before the Chief Justice for the Constitution of a larger Bench to consider the issue.
Read the judgment below.