Tamil Nadu Assembly issues notices anew to M K Stalin, DMK legislators in gutka sachets issue
(PTI Photo) (PTI8_8_2018_000237B)

Chennai: The Tamil Nadu Assembly Privilege Committee has issued fresh notices to Leader of Opposition and DMK president M K Stalin and his legislators on the issue of display of banned gutkha sachets in the House in 2017, seeking their response by Monday.

Incidentally, the House will meet for a brief three-day session starting September 14.

The privilege notice was initially served by the Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal in 2017 against 21 DMK lawmakers-- two died during the pendency of the case-- on the ground that "prohibited items" were brought into the Assembly by them.

Gutkha (chewing tobacco) has been banned in Tamil Nadu since 2013.

The notices that have been issued anew about three days ago sought response from the members by September 14.

Deploring the issuance of the notices, DMK said the move was aimed at preventing the party MLAs from taking part in the ensuing session of the Assembly, which is all set to commence on Monday at Kalaivanar auditorium.

Stalin and the DMK members have filed writ petitions against the fresh notice, a party statement said.

It recalled that the Madras High Court had last month set aside an earlier privilege notice against Stalin and the other MLAs, after they challenged it.

"Following this, the Assembly Privilege Committee met on September 7, 2020, again and discussed the events of July 19, 2017 with the Secretary to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, and issued notices to the MLAs,"it said.

The notices were issued on the eve of the Assembly session and the MLAs have been asked to respond by September 14.

"The purpose of this new notice is clear. It is to prevent our MLAs from participating in the forthcoming Assembly session, and raising the issue of government's mismanagement on coronavirus," DMK claimed.

Hence, the DMK members have filed a fresh writ petition in the High Court challenging the new notices.

On August 25, the Madras High Court, while making its observation, had left it to the Privilege Committee to deliberate on the issue further and examine whether the conduct would amount to a breach of privilege, particularly since the legality of a conduct does not necessarily mean that it is not a breach of privilege.

The first bench of Chief Justice A P Sahi and Justice Senthil Kumar Ramamoorthy had granted liberty to authorities for initiation of the privilege proceedings afresh.

After examining the various offences set out in the May 2017 notification, the High Court ruled that the display of Gutkha sachets by the MLAs on the Assembly Floor, with the intent of highlighting its availability despite the ban, did not constitute an offence under the law banning Gutkha in Tamil Nadu.

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