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Parliamentary Privileges

Parliamentary Privilege is the Special rights Immunities and advantages enjoyed by the both house of the parliament & their committee member either collectively or individually These privileges are necessary are necesseary to secure the Independence and effectiveness of their action These privleges gives certain exemption form the law of land The constitution has increased Parliamenteary Privleges to those who are entittled to speak and take part in the proceedings of the either of the house of the parliament

Kinds Of the Parliamentary Privileges
There are two categories of Parliament privileges in India, the specified and enumerated, and the recognized but unremunerated.

The first category includes:
The second category of the parliamentary privileges can be defined into two parts . These category, fall all those privileges which were enjoyed by the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and its members and committees, after the commencement of the Constitution of India and, would continue to be in force unless they are modified and defined by Parliament by law.

Collective Privileges:
  • The ability to publish reports, debates, and proceedings, as well as the ability to prevent others from doing so.
  • Exclude strangers form its proceedings and hold secret meetings to conduct important matters
  • Make rules to govern its own procedure and commercial activity, as well as to adjudicate on such issues. The two houses can make rules for:
    1. the regulation of their procedures
    2. Conduct of their business and adjucation of the work
  • Right to immediate notification of a member's arrest, custody, conviction, imprisonment, and release. Without the consent of the Presiding officer, no one (whether a member or an outsider) can be arrested, and no legal process (civil or criminal) can be served within the House's boundaries.
  • The parliament is entitled to punish the outsiders or the members for any breach of privilege by using any of the following:
    1. Reprimand
    2. Admonition
    3. Imprisonment
  • The courts are not allowed to investigate a House's or its committees' proceedings.No arrest of the any member of the house ( either civil/criminal) is made either on the prior notification to such member

Individual Privileges
The privileges belonging to the members individually are:
  • During the session of Parliament, from 40 days before the beginning to 40 days after the finish, no member may be arrested. This privilege is only granted in civil matters; it is not granted in criminal or preventive detention situations.

    In Parliament, members have the right to free expression. No member of Parliament or its committees is accountable in any court for anything said or voted in Parliament or its committees. This independence is limited by the Constitution's provisions as well as the norms and standing orders that govern Parliament's functioning.
Members of Parliament are exempt from jury duty when Parliament is in session. They can refuse to give evidence and appear as a witness in a case pending in a court when Parliament is in session.

What are the sources of privileges?
The five sources of the privileges are:
  1. Constitutional provisions
  2. Various laws made by Parliament
  3. Rules of both the Houses
  4. Parliamentary conventions
  5. Judicial interpretations

Advantage of the parliamentary privilege:
  1. It lowers tensions, fosters goodwill, and encourages collaboration between the two branches of government: The parliamentary system of governance is beneficial because it fosters cooperation between the executive and legislative branches of government.
  2. Faster and more efficient decision-making: The legislative and executive branches of government, as well as the parliamentary system, are linked together to allow for faster and more efficient decision-making.
  3. The fusion of the legislature and the executive to run a cabinet system of government in a parliamentary system of government means that less personnel and cost are required. Unlike a presidential system, where all the arms of government are separated and occupied by different sets of people.
  4. It encourages good governance: The Parliamentary form of government also promotes good governance for the successful management of the country because the individual and collective duty provided to the parliament would inspire all members of the cabinet to work hard. Accountability and transparency are also ensured.

Bare text reading:
  • Subject to the provisions of this constitution and the rules and standing orders regulating the procedure of Parliament,
  • there shall be freedom of speech in Parliament
  • No member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or
  • any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof, and
  • no person shall be so liable in respect of the publication (freedom of publication)
  • by or under the authority of either House of Parliament of any report, paper, votes or proceedings
  • In other respects, the powers, privileges and immunities of each House of Parliament, and of the members and the committees of each House,
  • shall be such as may from time to time be defined by Parliament by law, and,
  • until so defined shall be those of that House and of its members and committees
  • immediately before the coming into force of Section 15 of the Constitution (Forty fourth Amendment) Act 1978
  • The provisions of clauses (1), (2) and ( )
  • shall apply in relation to persons who by virtue of this constitution
  • have the right to speak in, and otherwise to take part in the proceedings of a House of Parliament or any committee thereof as they apply in relation to members of parliament.
The facts of the case are � some MP's received bribes to vote against the motion of no-confidence against the Prime Minister P.V. Narsimha Rao. He was charged under IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act on the grounds that he bribed some MPs to vote against the no-confidence motion when he was serving as the Prime Minister. In this case, the question arose that under Article 105(2) does any member of parliament have any immunity to protect himself in criminal proceedings against him?

It was held by the majority of the Court that under Article 105(2) the members of the parliament will get immunity and thus, the activity of taking bribe by the MP's will get immunity despite anything said by them or any vote given by them in the Parliament. The Court further explained that the word "anything" here will be interpreted as a wider term. The Court interpreted the term "anything" in a wider sense and did not prosecute P.V. Narsimha Rao.

Freedom of Publication - Article 361-A
  • No person shall be liable to any proceedings, civil or criminal, in any court in respect of the publication in a newspaper of a substantially true report of any proceedings of either House of Parliament or the Legislative Assembly,
  • or, as the case may be, either House of the Legislature, of a State, unless the publication is proved to have been made with malice:
    • Provided that nothing in this clause shall apply to the publication of any report of the proceedings of a secret sitting of either House of Parliament or the Legislative Assembly,
    • or, as the case may be, either House of the Legislature, of a State.
  • Clause (1) shall apply in relation to reports or matters broadcast by means of wireless telegraphy as part of any programme or service
  • provided by means of a broadcasting station as it applies in relation to reports or matters published in a newspaper.

Searchlight case ( MSM Sharma Vs. Sri Krishna Sinha and Other)
The Supreme Court ruled that publication of inaccurate or mashed versions of speeches delivered in the House or misreporting the proceedings amounts to breach of privilegeThe Court held that publication of those parts of proceedings by a newspaper which were expunged by the House amounts to breach of privilege of the House and the offending party can take action in spite of protection from Article 361A.The Supreme Court also held that the House can impose a prohibition on publication of any debates, proceedings even if such prohibitions amounted to violation of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (1)(a).

Parliamentary Privileges - Provisions related to Internal Autonomy - Article 122
  • The validity of any proceedings in Parliament
  • shall not be called in question on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure
  • No officer or member of Parliament in whom powers are vested by or under this Constitution
  • for regulating procedure or the conduct of business, or for maintaining order, in Parliament shall be subject to the jurisdiction of any court in respect of the exercise by him of those powers

Article 122 (1)
  • Grants immunity to internal functioning of the House.
  • The validity of any proceedings in Parliament cannot be called into question on the ground of alleged irregularity of procedure.
  • Article 122 (2) further says that officers of Parliament who regulate its procedure and maintain order are not subject to the jurisdiction of any court while exercising those powers.
  • the House of Parliament is free from judicial control in its functioning.
  • Speaker cannot be sued for damages for any action taken against a member including that of arrest.
  • A High Court or Supreme Court cannot issue a writ under Article 226 or Article 32 to restrain the functioning of the House or legislation even though the subject of legislation is ultra vires.
  • Only when a Bill becomes a law after the President's assent, the Courts can decide upon its constitutionality.
  • Thus, the House enjoys immunity from judicial process and such courtesy is also extended to the Committee of the House as a committee is one of its parts through which a House functions. However, illegality or unconstitutionality of a procedure can be inquired into by a Court of Law.

Breach of Privilege and Contempt of the House
"When any individual or authority disregards or attacks any of the privileges, rights and immunities, either of the member individually or of the House in its collective capacity, the offence is termed as breach of privilege and is punishable by the House."

Though the two phrases, 'breach of privilege' and 'contempt of the House' are used interchangeably, they have different implications. 'Normally, a breach of privilege may amount to contempt of the House. Likewise, contempt of the House may include a breach of privilege also. Contempt of the House, however, has wider implications. There may be contempt of the House without specifically committing a breach of privilege'.

Procedure Followed In Cases Of An Alleged Breach:
  • A Privileges Committee, chaired by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly or the Chairman of the Legislative Council, is made up of 15 Assembly members and 11 Council members.
  • The members of the quasi-judicial committee are chosen based on the strength of the parties in the Houses.
  • The motions are initially decided by the Speaker or Chairman.
  • If the privilege and contempt are proven prima facie, the Speaker or Chairman will refer the matter to the Privileges Committee in accordance with the proper procedure.
  • The Committee will seek an explanation from all the concerned, will conduct an inquiry and will make a recommendation based on the findings to the legislature for its consideration.

Keshava Singh v. Speaker, Legislative Assembly (1965)
Keshava Singh, who was a non-legislative member of the assembly, printed and published a pamphlet. Because of the printing and publishing of the pamphlet, the Speaker of the U.P. Legislative assembly criticized him for contempt and breach of the privilege of one of the members. On the same day, Mr Keshava being present in the house committed another breach by his conduct.

As a result of his conduct in the house, the speaker directed him to be imprisoned, issued a warrant for the same and ordered his detention in jail for 7 days.

Under Article 226, a writ of Habeas Corpus was applied in his petition. The petition claimed that the detention in jail is illegal and is done with malafide intentions. The petition also stated that he was not given any chance to explain or defend himself. The petition was heard by the 2 judges who gave them interim bail.

As a result of the decision in Keshava's case, the assembly passed a new resolution.

In this resolution, it was laid that the 2 judges entertained the writ filed by the petitioner and his lawyer. In its resolution, the assembly issued a contempt notice to present the two judges and the lawyer before the house and explain the reasons for their conduct. It also ordered that Keshava should be taken into custody. Under this, they moved petitions under 226 and filed a writ of mandamus before the Allahabad High Court to set aside the resolution passed by the assembly.

It was held by the majority of the Supreme Court that the conduct of the 2 judges does not amount to contempt.

The Court further explained that if in the matters of privileges stated under Article 194(3) then the house will be considered as the sole and exclusive judge provided that it should be stated in that. But if any such privilege is not mentioned in the article then it's the Court who has to decide upon it.

This is an academic article written solely for the education Purpose.

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