New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that parliamentary standing committee reports can be relied on for deciding a case but these cannot be challenged in a court of law.

A constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the court could take on record a parliamentary standing committee’s report but independent adjudication would rest with the court itself.

“The court can take aid of a parliamentary standing committee’s report for interpretation of statutory provisions but the same cannot be challenged," Misra said while pronouncing the judgement.

The court further said relying on such reports also did not amount to violation of parliamentary privilege.

The issue had cropped up as the court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) alleging irregularities in clinical trials for cervical cancer prevention conducted by pharma companies, including GlaxoSmithKline Ltd. and MSD Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd. on nearly 24,000 tribal girls in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

It was alleged that the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) granted licence for the vaccines without adequate research on their safety and efficacy and that the health ministry did not inquire into their licensing as sought by a parliamentary standing committee.

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 GlaxoSmithKline Ltd. and MSD Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd.

The Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), an international non-profit organisation, collaborated with the Indian Council of Medical Research, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and state governments of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, to deliver and administer HPV vaccines to 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 the dearth of follow-ups for adverse effects were also recorded by the committee, which comprises parliamentarians of several political parties. The 2012 PIL had sought the quashing of licences granted to the pharmaceutical companies.

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