Parliamentary panel report can be cited in Constitutional courts: SC

Parliamentary panel report can be cited in Constitutional courts: SC

The Supreme Court said that reports can be regarded as admissible in evidence.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that parliamentary panel reports can be relied upon to determine a question of law or decide a PIL without violating the privilege of members of House and Constitutional principle of separation of power.

“The constitutional obligation persuades us to take the view that the Parliamentary Standing Committee Report or any Parliamentary Committee Report can be taken judicial notice of and regarded as admissible in evidence, but it can neither be impinged nor challenged nor its validity can be called in question,” a five-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra said in 338-page judgement.

In an unanimous verdict, the top court said the Constitution itself being a “dynamic, lively and ever-changing document” adapts to the paradigm of epochs.

Therefore, the constitutional courts should always adopt a progressive approach and display a dynamic and spirited discharge of duties in the concepts of judicial statesmanship and judicial engagement, for subserving the larger public interest, it said.

The court said the parliamentary panel report can be used as evidence in a litigation filed either under Article 32 (writ petition) or Article 136 (special leave petition) of the Constitution.

“The Parliamentary Standing Committee report being in the public domain can invite fair comments and criticism from the citizens as in such a situation, the citizens do not really comment upon any member of Parliament to invite the hazard of violation of parliamentary privilege,” the judgement, authored by CJI Misra, on behalf of Justice A M Khanwilkar, said.

In a separate and concurring judgement, Justice D Y Chandrachud, on behalf of Justice A K Sikri, wrote that history and contemporary events across the world are a reminder that black-outs of information are used as a willing ally to totalitarian excesses of power. They have no place in a democracy.

“There is no reason or justification to exclude parliamentary panel report from the purview of the judicial process, for purposes such as understanding the historical background of a law, the nature of the problem, the causes of a social evil and the remedies which may provide answers to intractable problems of governance,” they said.

Justice Ashok Bhushan, in his own judgement, concluded admissibility of a Parliamentary Committee Report in evidence does not mean that facts stated therein stand proved.

It cannot be held to be binding on parties who can cite independent evidence to prove their stand.

The crucial question before the top court came in a PIL by Kaplana Mehta and others who sought to rely upon parliamentary panel reports in challenging approval to HPV vaccine manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Asia Pvt Ltd and MSD Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd to prevent cervical cancer in women.