New Delhi, Oct 24 - The Supreme Court was told on Tuesday that a parliamentary standing committees' report was advisory in nature, which may or may not be accepted by Parliament and thus can't be relied upon by the higher courts in adjudication matters.
As a parliamentary committee's report is an advice rendered to the house, no petition can be brought to issue a mandamus in terms of any findings or conclusions in such a report, senior counsel Harish Salve told a Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan are also on the Constitution Bench, which is examining whether courts can refer to and place reliance upon parliamentary standing committee reports and whether the report could be looked at for the purpose of reference.
Salve, who appeared for MSD Pharmaceuticals, said the committee recommendation does not confer a right on anyone and relying on such a report may result in a challenge to the report itself.
Pointing to separation of power and describing a parliamentary standing committee as a micro Parliament, Salve said a challenge to the report of a house committee (as much as challenge to anything said or done in the house) impinges upon parliamentary privileges.
MSD Pharmaceuticals is a respondent in the case and a manufacturer of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine for preventing cervical cancer. GlaxoSmithKline Asia Pvt Ltd is another company manufacturing the vaccine.
Salve argued that courts can't rely on parliamentary committee reports while adjudicating issues before them.
The bench asked if the parliamentary standing committee on the Ministry for Women and Child Development discusses certain issues relating to the Juvenile Justice Act and its implementation, can't the courts after some time examine that report to see whether the objectives of the Act have been achieved or not.
The top court said that it may not look at the committee report for fault-finding but can rely upon the same for deciding an issue before it.
That is the whole purpose of putting the report in the public domain, the bench observed.
The top court on April 5 ordered the framing of two questions to be addressed by the Constitution Bench -- if the top court while hearing a plea under Article 32 and Article 136 of the Constitution can refer to and place reliance upon a parliamentary standing committee report, and whether the report could be looked at for the purpose of reference.
It further asked if there could be restrictions on reference in view of parliamentary privileges and a delicate balance between the constitutional institutions in Indian democracy.
Article 32 gives the citizens the right to move the top court for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights whereas Article 136 provides for the top court to grant leave to appeal against judgments, decrees, sentences or orders passed or made by any court or tribunal within India.
A bench of then Justice Misra and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman had, by their April 5 order, referred the matter to the Constitution Bench while hearing a matter related to action taken by the Drugs Controller General of India and the Indian Council of Medical Research pertaining to approval of HPV vaccine manufactured by these two pharmaceutical companies.
The hearing will continue on Wednesday.