"If it (parliamentary committee report) can be looked at for the purpose of reference, can there be restrictions regarding the area and arena in question?"
The Supreme Court on Wednesday referred to a constitution bench whether the report of parliamentary standing committee could be relied upon during a judicial proceedings. Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman said since it involved an important and substantial issue, “we think it appropriate to refer it to the constitution bench for its consideration”. Framing the question for consideration by the constitution bench, the court said: “If it (parliamentary committee report) can be looked at for the purpose of reference, can there be restrictions regarding the area and arena in question?”
The court also said that it can ask the government on the steps taken by its in pursuance to the report by the parliamentary committee but how could it look into the report. “Can this court, in our constitutional framework, get into the debate of parliament? Whatever is said by a parliamentary committee, there is a great doubt whether it is to be considered by this court.” The matter was referred to the constitution bench as the bench felt that it might be crossing the “boundary of federal structure” if it relies on the report of parliamentary standing committee in a matter arising from a public interest litigation.
The issue surfaced in the course of the hearing of a PIL by Kalpana Mehta on a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine that is used for preventing cervical cancer as senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for her, told the bench that it could look into the parliamentary committee report for examining the issue of drugs relating to HPV vaccine. At this the bench expressed its doubts whether it could issue mandamus on the basis of parliamentary committee report and brushed aside the reference of English law by the senior counsel, saying: “We cannot, should not and ought not follow the English law. Our constitution has a standalone position.”
Earlier the top court had asked the Central government to place before it the file as per which the Drug Controller approved two HPV vaccines used for preventing cervical cancer. Mehta has contended that the HPV vaccine were “unproven and hazardous”, and that anomalies in its safety and efficacy were brought out by the various women groups and health groups from across the country that included a member of National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
The PIL petition has said that both the vaccines – Gardasil marketed by MSD Pharmaceutical Pvt Ltd and Cervarix by GlaxoSmithKline – were “licensed in India without sufficient clinical trials in appropriate age groups to determine their safety and efficacy”.