Court: Supreme Court of India.
Citations: 2018,7 SCC (1)
Case No.: 558 of 2012
Case Type: Writ Petition.
Date of Judgement: 09/05/2018.
Petitioner: Kalpana Mehta and others.
Respondent: Union of India and Others.
- Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra
- Justice A.M. Khanwilkar.
- Justice D.Y. Chandrachud
- Justice A.K. Sikri.
- Justice Ashok Bhushan.
- Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (also referred to as “the Evidence Act”)
- Constitution of India.
- Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
- Bill of Rights, 1688.
- Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952.
- Kesavananda Bharti Sripadgalavara V State of Kerala and others.
- State of Bengal V Anwar Ali Sarkar
- I.R. Coelho (Dead) by LRs V State of T.N.
- State of Rajasthan and others V Union of India and others.
- K.C. Gajapati Narayn Dev V State of Orissa.
- Deep Chand V State of Uttar Pradesh and others.
- Binoy Viswam V Union of India and others.
- P.V. Narsimha Rao V. State (CBI/SPE), 1998, 4 SCC 626.
- Right Honourable Gerald Lord Strickland vs Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, A.I.R. 1935 P.C. 34.
- Standard Chartered Bank vs. A.B.F.S.L & ORS., 2001(4) BOM.LR 520.
- Jyoti Harshad Mehta (Mrs) and others vs Custodian and others, 2009 (10) SCC 564.
- Stockdale Vs. Hansard, 9 A.D. & E.2
- In July 2009, the petitioners became aware of a demonstration project carried out in Andhra Pradesh and Gujrat by the U.S. based NGO PATH (Respondent no.6) along with the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).
- In the demonstration, 32,000 adolescent girls between the age of 10-14 years were to be administered the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) vaccine, which claimed to prevent cervical cancer.
- Vaccines by the name of ‘Gardasil’ was manufactured by respondent no. 7- GlaxoSmithKline Asia Pvt. Ltd. and ‘Cervarix’ was manufactured by respondent no. 8- M.S.D. Pharmaceuticals Private Limited. The vaccines were licenced in India on July 2008 and September 2008, respectively, by the Drugs Comptroller of India.
- In July 2009, the vaccine Gardasil was administered in Khammam District in Andhra Pradesh. Few girls died.
- Health activists wrote to the Ministry of Health regarding the health risks and irregularities of HPV vaccines, and women’s organisations sent representations and conducted a fact-finding enquiry.
- On 15th April 2010, the Government of India appointed a committee to inquire into “the alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using Human papilloma Virus vaccine” by PATH in India. The final report of the committee was submitted on 15th February 2011. Several discrepancies were recorded.
- The Parliamentary Standing Committee (P.S.C.) of the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, while examining the demand for grants of the Department of Health Research, took up the issue of the trial of HPV vaccine on children in districts of Khammam in Andhra Pradesh and Vadodara in Gujrat.
- The committee heard the Union of India (U.O.I.), ICMR, the Department of Drugs Comptroller of India and took oral evidence.
- The Departmental Standing Committee (72nd Report) submitted its report to Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on 30th August 2013.
- The P.S.C. found various shortcomings and lapses by the Government departments, the ICMR, and the part of respondents 6,7 and 8.
- The committee issued various directions and recommendations.
- A report (81st Report) on the Actions taken by the Government on the issues, observations, and recommendations mentioned was submitted to the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on 23rd December 2014.
- Whether in a litigation filed before this Court either under Article 32 or Article 136 of the Constitution of India, the Court can refer to and place reliance upon the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee?
- Whether such a Report can be looked at for the purpose of reference and, if so, can there be restrictions for the purpose of reference regard being had to the concept of parliamentary privilege and the delicate balance between the constitutional institutions that Articles 105, 121 and 122 of the Constitution conceive?
Contentions by Petitioner:
- The HPV Vaccine Observational Study Demonstration Project should be declared as a Phase IV Clinical trial within the meaning of various rules of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1954.
- As per the Evidence Act, 1887, parliamentary proceedings are public documents that are admissible in evidence.
- No challenge has been made to any part of the Parliamentary Committee Report, nor is it being asked that a mandamus must be issued to enforce the report’s finding. No question has been raised with regards to the actions or conduct of any parliament member.
- The Executive is trying to protect itself by invoking privilege, and the Parliament does not take offence or objections to the reports being filed and used.
- The Court should follow the principles of comity of the institution instead of relying on principles of separation of power and conflict of institutions.
- Under the R.T.I. Act, the Parliamentary reports can be sought and used by all concerned.
- The reports unearth several wrongdoings committed by all the respondents, and hence they are critical.
- Parliamentary Committee Report, a measure of social protection should be looked into by the Court while rendering justice to the common man, especially in a P.I.L.
Contentions by the Respondents:
By Pharmaceutical Companies-
- The Parliamentary Committee report cannot be relied upon nor looked into by this Court.
- By virtue of Article 105 of the Constitution, no member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in Court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in the Parliament or any Committee thereof.
- Evidence led by Parliamentary Committee cannot be criticised.
- Legislative privilege protects all acts done in the Parliament, including the Parliamentary Committee Report.
- As a result, the report cannot be challenged in Court.
- Article IX of the Bill of Rights 1688 confers protections on the proceedings of Parliament from being impeached or questioned in any court of law or any place other than the Parliament.
- Indian Parliament is vested with the same privileges as enjoyed by the House of Commons.
By the Union-
- Parliament is supreme in its proceedings, and the same cannot be questioned in a court of law.
- All wings of State must act within their spheres to not entrench upon each other.
- Referring to a P.S.C. report in Court is an issue of jurisdiction between The Court and the Parliament.
- Historical facts and a statement of Ministers can be referred to in Court but no the reports submitted by committees in Parliament.
- There is a total bar into looking into the Reports of Parliament based on separation of powers and express provisions of Article 105(2) and 105(4) of the Constitution.
- The protection which is extended to Parliament Members is also extended to Parliamentary proceedings and Parliamentary reports.
- The Constitution of India, by Article 105 and Article 194, gives constitutional recognitions to parliamentary privileges. Article 105 deals with the powers, privileges and immunities of the Parliament and its members, whereas Article 194 deals with the powers, privileges and immunities and of State Legislatures and their members. Both the articles are identical. To understand the constitutional scheme, it is sufficient to only refer to Article 105.
- The present case is not a proceeding against any Member of the Parliament for anything which has been said in the Parliamentary Committee Report.
- By sub-clause 3 of Article 105 of the Constitution, The Indian Parliament enjoys certain privileges which are similar to the privileges enjoyed by the House of Commons.
- The reports submitted by the Departmental Parliamentary Standing Committees are reports of matters entrusted to it by the Parliament. The Council of Ministers, which is responsible for the Parliament, supervises the works done by different government departments. Apart from supervision, the committees also make recommendations and issue directions. Directions and recommendations are to be implemented by different Government Departments, and action taken reports are submitted before the Parliament to be considered by the Departmental Standing Committees. Thus, the functions of the committees play an important role in the functioning of the whole Government, which is directly related to the welfare of the country.
- The Publication proceedings of the Parliament serves a public purpose.
- Parliamentary materials, including reports, have been sent to courts as evidence from time to time by permission of the Parliament.
- A plain reading of section 57(4) of the Evidence Act makes it clear that the course of proceedings of Parliaments and Legislature, established under any law, are facts of which the courts shall take judicial notice.
- Parliamentary reports are a part of the proceedings of the Parliament.
- According to Section 74 of the Evidence Act, acts or records of the acts of Legislature of any part of India is a public document. Parliament has already adopted a report that those documents which are public documents within the meaning of Indian Evidence Act, there is no requirement of any permission of Speaker of Lok Sabha for producing such documents in Court.
- Parliamentary materials, including a Standing Committee Report, can very well be accepted as evidence in the Court of Law. But because of parliamentary privileges, the proceedings of the Parliament can neither be questioned nor impeached in Court.
- There is no violation of any parliamentary privilege in accepting Parliamentary Committee Reports in Court.
- Parliamentary reports and materials can be used to consider the legislative history of a statute and consider the statements made by a Minister.
- Whenever the State Legislative, Executive and Judiciary organs interact with each other, mutual respect and balance have to be maintained. All three organs have to strive to achieve the constitutional goal set out for ‘We the People’.
- Articles 121 and 122 of the Constitution debar the Court from questioning the validity of parliamentary proceeding on the grounds of irregularity or procedure. The scope of the courts to question the proceedings is thus limited to the grounds mentioned above only.
- Statements made in the Parliament are subject to fair criticism by all.
- The mere fact that a document, whether the public or private document, has been admitted in Court as the evidence does not mean that the contents of the said documents are true and correct.
- Parliamentary Standing Committee reports can be admitted as evidence in Court.
- Publication of parliamentary reports is not only being permitted but also being encouraged by the Parliament.
- Proceedings of Parliament or Legislature, established under any law, are facts of which Judicial notice shall be taken.
- Acts, records, and other similar parliamentary material is part of the Public Domain.
- Accepting parliamentary material as evidence in Court does not amount to questioning or impeaching the minister and the Parliament by extension.
- The Constitution does not envisage the supremacy of any of the three organs of the State. The Constitution governs the functioning of all three organs.
- There is no total prohibition of the Court from examining the parliamentary proceedings if the proceedings are clearly in breach of the fundamental rights or other constitutional provisions.
- The power of Judicial Review by the Court about legislation and some Parliamentary proceedings are recognised exceptions when this Court can enter into the parliamentary domain. In all other aspects, parliamentary supremacy regarding its proceedings, the procedure followed has to be accepted.
- Although there is no rigid separation of powers in India, the functions of all three wings- Legislative, Executive and Judiciary, of the State are sufficiently differentiated. Each has the freedom to carry out its functions unhindered by other branches of the State. A delicate balance, mutual harmony and respect must be maintained between the three for the proper working of the Constitution.