Parliamentary Privileges in India – Manav Puri@LexCliq
With a view of enabling the Parliament to act and discharge its functions, effectively, without obstruction or interference or without any fear or favor certain privileges and immunities are provided or attached to each house collectively and individually. These privileges are conferred upon each house, so that they may vindicate its authority, power, prestige and protects its members from any obstruction in their performance. These privileges are divided into Internal and external ones, where in the former, these also restrain the members of house from doing something that may amount to an abuse of their position, in the latter, they refrain anyone from outside the house to hamper the functioning of the houses, henceforth, limiting the extent of freedom of speech.
Freedom of Speech – The essence of parliamentary democracy is in free, frank and fearless, discussion in Parliament, with freedom of speech is of utmost importance. Articles 105 (1) and (2), of the constitution provides this privilege, stating that no member will be held liable for any speech, vote, or proceedings of the parliament. This freedom is very essential to protect the integrity of the judiciary. A member is even protected for what he says inside the house, but not for the words spoken outside, with an exception of the words that were to be spoken as essential for performing his duty.
Publications under Parliamentary Authority – Article 105 (2), also states that no person will be held liable to any proceedings, of court in respect to the publication of any report, paper, votes, by or under any parliamentary proceedings. This Article does not protect any publications that have been made without the authority of the house. According to Article 361 – A, a person will not be held liable, to any proceedings, in respect to any publications made unless it is proved that the publication of the reports, have been made with malice.
Rule-making power – Article 118 of the constitution provides each house of the Parliament with the power to make rules, laws, orders and regulate its proceedings and conduct of its business. And if any rule made by the house is infringing any provision of the constitution, then it will be valid.
Internal Autonomy – Each house has a right to conduct its proceedings in the way it thinks it is fit and proper. Each house has its own control over the house and no other authority from the other house can encroach in the regulation of its internal proceedings. Under Article 118 of the Constitution, the houses have been given certain powers to conduct its regulation for proceedings and cannot be challenged in the law courts on the ground that the house is not according to the rules made under Article 118. The Supreme Court has also provided that this is a general provision and the rule is not final and binding upon the house. They can deviate or modify the rules anytime according to the situations.
Other provisions of Parliamentary privileges – Article 105 (3), of the constitution, further specifies about the other powers and privileges for the members and house the of parliament which are as follows;
Freedom from arrest – A member cannot be arrested on a civil proceeding within a period of 40 days before or after a session of the house. The main objective of this privilege is to secure the safe arrival and regular attendance of the members, for carrying out their parliamentary duties, this does not extend to the charges like – criminal ones, for the contempt of court or preventive detention. A detained person has no right to attend the meetings, but the parliament has the right to receive an immediate information about arrest of any of their members, about their offence, or conviction. And the parliament may also obtain the information about the conditions of the member under detention and the facilities provided to him.
Inquiries – The house also has power to institute inquiries and order the attendance of the witnesses, and in case any person is charged for the contempt or court or breach of privilege, the person can be ordered to attend and answer for the same, and in case of any willful disobedience or any order by a person, he can be taken into the custody for the same.
Disciplinary powers over the members – The house of the parliament has the power to enforce discipline, which is absolute and exclusive, apart from this, punishing its members for their offensive actions in the house, and also has the power to expel any member of the house, whose action becomes unfit in a manner to membership of the parliament, or for not behaving is a good way, whether inside or outside the house. It also has the power to suspend the member of parliament, for persistently flouting the authority, speaker, or the chairman. The suspension can also be done, for casting reflections on impartiality and defying the orders of the authority. If a member disregards, abuses the rules of house persistently or grossly disordering the rules of the authority, can result in the motion in the house against the member and can be suspended according to the result of the motion.
Freedom from jury services – Members of the parliament are exempted from the jury services, the members may also decline to give the evidences and appear as a witness in the court of law, when the parliament is in the session, and therefore, these privileges are found on the paramount right of the house for the attendance and regular services of its members.
Privacy of Debates – A house of the Parliament has a right to exclude the strangers from its proceedings, and hold its sittings in camera. This power may be used by the house to go into sessions for the reason of protection of national security. And for such reason the chairman or the speaker of house, if he thinks, he can order the withdrawal of strangers from any part of the house.
Powers to punish for contempt – The house has the power to punish any member whether outside or inside, for the contempt or breach of its privilege. The grounds on which a member can be held guilty for contempt or breach of his privilege are vague, uncertain and indefinite, and the scope of terms contempt and breach of privilege is very broad and includes a variety of situations, like – Commenting on the newspaper publications or statements made by the members and reflecting in such a way that effects their prestige in the eyes of the public, premature publication of report of a meeting of the committee of the house before it is presented before the house, any comment disrespecting the parliament, misrepresenting the proceedings of the house, intimidating or coercing any member of the house. Breach of privilege does not only mean breach of recognized privilege of members, but it includes any action that undermines the dignity of the authority of the house.
Author Name – Manav Puri@LexCliq