This judgment will help NGOs, which frequently file PILs in the SC, to rely on parliamentary standing committee reports that are often critical of the government to seek relief for people under various welfare schemes.
A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, led by chief justice Dipak Misra, on Wednesday held that courts can rely on the published reports of parliamentary standing committees for any evidence and it does not amount to breach of parliamentary privilege. However, it held that the validity of parliamentary committee reports cannot be challenged or questioned in courts. “Parliamentary Standing Committee report can be taken aid of for the purpose of interpretation of a statutory provision wherever it is so necessary and also it can be taken note of as existence of a historical fact…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 the Parliament to invite the hazard of violation of parliamentary privilege,” the CJI said.
The bench, also comprising justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, in three separate but concurrent judgments, unanimously said the Constitution envisages separation of power among the three organs of democracy and the court has to “strike a balance between legislature and judiciary”.
The judgments concluded that there was no reason for courts to exclude published parliamentary standing committee reports for checking historical facts, nature of the problem addressed, the cause of the social evil and its remedies.
This judgment will help NGOs, which frequently file PILs in the SC, to rely on parliamentary standing committee reports that are often critical of the government to seek relief for people under various welfare schemes. It often becomes difficult to get evidence in some of these cases, but parliamentary committees can have access to information and their reports often contain valuable evidence and findings, obtained after special inquiries.
The question of law as to whether a parliamentary committee report could be relied upon in a judicial proceeding was referred to the Constitution bench in April 2017. The issue came up before the court in a PIL concerning alleged irregularities in clinical trials conducted for cervical cancer prevention vaccines. The 2012 petition had sought quashing of licences granted to pharma companies.