In a decision that could put Parliament and the Judiciary on a collision course, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee announced Friday that he would "return" the notice from the Supreme Court in connection with the expulsion of members of Parliament.
An all-party meeting convened by him in Delhi took the view "in one voice" that he should not accept the notice or appear in person before the court, Chatterjee told reporters.
He said even V K Malhotra of Bharatiya Janata Party, which had staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha against the procedure adopted for expulsion, was of the view that the decision of the House was supreme.
Ten members of the Lok Sabha and one member of Rajya Sabha were expelled in December after an inquiry by House Committees, which held them guilty of accepting money for raising questions and recommended their expulsion.
One of the expelled Lok Sabha members challenged the decision in the Supreme Court, which has referred the matter to the Constitution Bench and also issued notices to the speaker, the government and the attorney general on the issue.
Some of the members had approached the Delhi high court, which also issued notices to Speaker and others.
Malhotra later told PTI that his party wanted the apex court to give a view on the "legality and constitutionality" of the issue. The speaker may accept the notices and an advocate could present his views before the court, he said.
Malhotra said his party had suggested at the meeting that the speaker could accept the notice and a lawyer could present his views before the court.
Asked what would be the fate of the notice when it reaches, Chatterjee said, "It will be very respectuflly returned. Taking all views into consideration, I have decided not not to accept any notice, far less responding to the same."
Maintaining that this should not not be construed as a "confrontationist move", the speaker said he was of the considered opinion that no court of law has jurisdiction in the matter and that Parliament was supreme to decide the question of punishment of its members for wrongful conduct.
He said the Constitution was "clear" on the jurisdiction of the pillars of democracy.
"Let us keep within our Laxman Rekha (limit)," he added.
An eminent lawyer himself, the speaker argued that challenging the decision on expulsion of MPs in a court of law is tantamount to challenging the validity of the exercise of votes by MPs inside the House. Even the Constitution prohibits the courts from doing so, he said.
"I decided that this is a matter, which really concerned the members of the House more than the speaker," he said.
In his opening remarks at the meeting, Chatterjee said, "I have been expressing my humble views that our Constitution does not not contemplate the existence of a super organ or any other organ having overriding authority over the others.
"Therefore, it is essentially to have a harmonious relationship between the different organs and respect for each other."
To a question, he said the government, which had also been sent a notice by the apex court, may explain its poisition but he was not authorising it to give views either on his behalf or Parliament's behalf.