The eleven expelled Members of Parliament have approached the judiciary with a plea to get their cases heard again. Their point: the legality of the Parliament decision on the ground that privileges of Parliament have to flow from Constitution and the Constitution does not provide for expulsion.
Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee reacting to the court notice reportedly said that he would not respond to any court notice as in his perception issues relating to the discipline of MPs could not be subject to judicial intervention. The counsel for the petitioners, senior advocate P.N. Lekhi responded to the Speaker saying, ?Any legality in the procedures of Parliament is subject to judicial scrutiny which is even supported by a ruling of the seven-member bench of the Supreme Court.? The only question for consideration before the court was whether the expulsion was as per the mandate of the Constitution. Since the Parliament has its genesis out of the Constitution, its privileges have to be seen through the screen of the Constitution, the petitioners contend.
The question before the nation is the very principle of rule of law. As the veteran jurist and former Attorney General Soli J. Sorabjee pointed out neither the judiciary nor the legislature knew its limitations within the Constitution. None was above the law and the rule of law would always prevail. In the Speaker not accepting the court notice, the very principle of rule of the law was ignored he says. What are the legal consequences of the Speaker´s rejection of the court notice? The court, as Sorabjee explained, could go ahead with the hearing by appointing an attorney. None could say the judiciary could not intervene in any case dealt with any manner. The best the Speaker could have done, according to Sorabjee, was to accept the Supreme Court notice and explain his stand, thus respecting the judiciary.
Somnath Chatterjee is himself a legal luminary and he should know the law. The matter under judicial review, is not the point of discussion here either. The court will deliver its verdict and till then the matter is subjudice.
But the Marxist stand raises some doubts. The Parliament as the law-enacting body, drawing its strength directly from the people, is supreme. But the four pillars of democracy, we are told, work independently and in tandem. Under the Constitutional scheme, these pillars are made autonomous and fiercely independent with the basic idea of ensuring maximum possible level of natural justice to every individual under the system of social contract. From a lay citizen´s point of view, the confrontation of any pillar with the other will only lead to the collapse of the entire system of democracy. One day somebody can say a court verdict on an election petition is not binding because the Election Commission is supreme in conducting polls. The Marxists, particularly the Stalinist variety, are not known to possess great love for either the rule of law or the Constitution. But they never miss a chance to remind others about the non-violability of the judiciary. The Left parties were in the foremost advocating the supremacy of the judiciary, especially in the context of the Ramjanmabhumi movement, led by nationalist sentiments. They will not accept any settlement other than judicial though it involved the faith of millions of Indians.
The politics of pitting Parliament against judiciary began in the seventies when Smt. Indira Gandhi was fighting for survival against the Congress syndicate with Communist support. This fight culminated in the declaration of Emergency.
To muster support for his stand Somnath Chatterjee called an all-party meet on January 20. The resolve of the meeting, though the main opposition party, BJP dissented, was that the court had no jurisdiction in the matter of the MPs´ expulsion. The BJP actually wanted the issue of the expulsion of MPs to be considered by a Select Committee. And remember, the decision to terminate the membership of these MPs was not unanimous. More than one fourth of the members, representing the Opposition walked out.
On the question of the Supreme Court intervention in restoring democracy in Jharkhand early last year also, the Lok Sabha Speaker had taken a similar view. Then also he tried to call an all-party meeting to define the limits of judicial power. In that case the Congress took a last minute U-turn leaving the Speaker fuming. The Parliament and the legislatures after all draw their strength from the people of the country. In a democracy the people are the sovereign and all the four pillars especially the Parliament is a reflection of the will of the people of the country. Hence it is supreme. To that extent, some members elected by the people were being expelled by the majority of the members?a situation, which could lead to dangerous consequences. Checks and balances are the essence and vitality of a democratic polity.