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Supreme Court refers parliamentary panel report issue to Constitution bench

LiveMint logoLiveMint 05-04-2017 Apurva Vishwanath

New Delhi: A Constitution bench of the Supreme Court will now decide whether the courts can rely on a parliamentary standing committee report during judicial proceedings.

The issue came up before the court in a public interest litigation (PIL) concerning alleged irregularities in clinical trials conducted for cervical cancer prevention vaccines. The 89th parliamentary standing committee report on health and family welfare in 2013 had found irregularities in clinical trials conducted for two vaccines—Gardasil and Cervarix, manufactured by Merck Sharp and Dohme and GaxoSmithKline Plc.

A bench comprising justices Dipak Misra and Rohinton F. Nariman in an oral observation said the courts cannot act based on a parliamentary report alone. “We could be crossing a line on the federal structure if we do so,” the court said.

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Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for one of the pharma companies had objected to placing the report on record. He had argued that parliament enjoys a certain privilege and is immune to judicial scrutiny.

Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), an international non-profit collaborated with the Indian Council of Medical Research, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and state governments of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, delivered and administered HPV vaccines to minor girls aged between 10 and 14 years. The project had received donations from the pharma companies, according to the parliamentary report.

Irregularities in obtaining proper consent for the trial and lacking in follow-ups for adverse effects were also recorded by the committee, comprised of parliamentarians of all political parties. The 2012 public interest litigation had sought quashing of licences granted to the pharma companies.

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