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Posted On : 12 Oct, 2017  Source : PTI  Place : New Delhi 
Courts can look into parliamentary panel reports but not rely on them, SC told
The Supreme Court was told on Thursday that courts could look into the report of the parliamentary committees but can't use it for evidentiary purposes or to direct the parliament to act on them.

The constitution bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan was told that every constitutional body acted independent of other co-equal constitutional institutions.

Telling the court that "reference to what goes on in a co-equal constitutional institution is always circumspect...", senior counsel Harish Salve said that "freedom of speech and expression, recognised explicitly or otherwise is implicit in the working of every constitutional institution".

Telling the court that it was the institution alone that controls and regulates itself, he said: "Every function of an institution should be regulated by that institution alone", be it the government auditor CAG or the Election Commission and termed the independent functioning of the constitutional institution as "the value of our democratic system".

If somebody lies before the parliament, then it for parliament alone to decide on its course of action against such a person, said Salve as the constitution bench examined the question whether courts could use reports of the parliamentary committee as evidence for determining an issue.

Salve appeared for the MSD Pharmaceuticals - a respondent in the case and a manufacturer producing vaccine - Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) - for preventing cervical cancer in women. GlaxoSmithKline Asia Pvt Ltd. is the other company that manufactures the vaccine.

In response to a query from the bench whether courts could not use the general information that is provided in the reports of the parliamentary committees, Salve said that general information could be used but not the specific.

The top court by its order of April 5, 2017 had framed two questions to be addressed by the constitution bench - if the top court in the hearing of a plea under Article 32 and Article 136 "can refer to and place reliance upon the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee?" and whether the report could be looked at for the purpose of reference.

It further said if there could be restrictions for the purpose of reference in view of the parliamentary privilege and the delicate balance between the constitutional institutions.

Article 32 gives the right to move the top court for the enforcement of fundamental rights and Article 136 provides for top court to grant leave to appeal against judgment, decree, sentence or order passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India.

The bench of then Justice Misra and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman had by their April 5, 2017, order referred the matter to the constitution bench while hearing a matter relating to action taken by the Drugs Controller General of India and the Indian Council of Medical Research pertaining to approval of the HPV vaccine by these two pharmaceutical companies.

Hearing will continue after Diwali holidays.
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