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The Hindu
The Hindu
The Hindu Bureau

SC notice on AAP MP Raghav Chadha’s challenge to his indefinite suspension from Rajya Sabha

The Supreme Court on Monday issued formal notice to the Rajya Sabha Secretariat on a petition by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP Raghav Chadha, who has challenged his “indefinite suspension” from the Upper House.

A three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud sought a response from the Secretariat and the Rajya Sabha Chairman on Mr. Chadha’s petition, questioning the latter’s jurisdiction to suspend him despite the fact that the Privilege Committee was already enquiring into his conduct.

“There is no power to suspend… where is the power to suspend pending enquiry,” Chief Justice Chandrachud asked.

Mr. Chadha, represented by senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi and advocate Shadan Farasat, submitted that the suspension was in clear breach of Rules 256 and 266 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States (‘Rajya Sabha Rules’) which incorporate a categorical prohibition against the suspension of any Member for a period ‘exceeding the remainder of the Session’.

The petition asked whether an MP could be suspended even in a case of breach of parliamentary privilege, and that too indefinitely.

“Would that kind of suspension pass the test of proportionality? Even if Rule 256 allows suspension for disregarding the Chair, it should extend only till the end of that particular session,” Mr. Farasat submitted.

The Bench also highlighted the right of an MP to free speech inside and outside the House. The court listed the case for hearing on October 30.

“The power to suspend is meant only to be used as a shield and not as a sword, i.e. it cannot be penal. The power to suspend indefinitely is dangerously open to excess and abuse,” Mr. Chadha’s petition submitted.

Mr. Chadha was suspended on August 11, the last day of the Monsoon Session of the Parliament, for “gross violation of rule, misconduct, defiant attitude and contemptuous conduct”. The suspension would continue to operate during the pendency of the Privileges Committee proceedings against him. The MP had moved the Supreme Court after the Committee had not taken a decision on him even in its recent meeting in the first week of October.

The petition said the MP was suspended an hour before the session was to be adjourned sine die. He was subsequently unable to attend the Special Session of the Parliament in September when the Women’s Reservation Bill was passed.

Mr. Chadha said he had not been able to attend the meetings of the Standing Committee on Finance and the Committee on Subordinate Legislation, which continue their work even when the Parliament is not in session.

“A suspension beyond the remainder period of the ongoing Session would not only be grossly irrational measure, but also violative of basic democratic values owing to unessential deprivation of the Member concerned and more importantly, the constituency would remain unrepresented in the Assembly,” the petition has noted.

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