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Parliamentary privileges prevalent in India

Introduction

The Members of the Parliament (M.P.) serve an essential function in the functioning of the government. As they are granted powers to make approve and disapprove bills, they enjoy certain privileges which an ordinary citizen does not have. These privileges are needed so that they can execute their duty and achieve their target without any objection. If they did not have these privileges, then much time will be wasted. 

The privileges enjoyed by the Member of Parliament are mentioned under article 105 and article 194 of the Constitution of India. These privileges include:

Freedom of Speech

Article 105(1) and (2) guarantees that there should be freedom of speech in the parliament and says that the member of the parliament will not be liable for any trial in the court for anything communicated or voted in the parliament or front of any committee. The members are also immune to publication and any report, votes, paper or proceedings if these were made by the parliament or under the jurisdiction of any parliamentary body under it. Article 194 talks about the freedom of speech enjoyed by the State Legislature and its members. These articles guarantee freedom of speech to parliament members and state legislatures, but this immunity only extends to words and actions made or published in the parliament. However, if any publication is made with the wrong interest in mind, then that member will not be given protection from any action against it. If these members make any statement or action outside the parliament prohibited under Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian constitution or any other law, they can be held liable for the in the court of law.

In the case of PV Narsimha Rao v state, some M.P. alleged that they were bribed to vote against the no-confidence motion, and a case of corruption was filed against the then prime minister P.V Narsimha Rao. The question of the law came in front of the court whether article 105(2) can protect any M.P. from inviting a criminal proceeding against him. The court held that immunity could be given to the M.P., and the accused will not be charged for bribing despite being an illegal act. The court also held that the term ‘anything’ can be held to have a broader scope.

Parliamentary privileges prevalent in India

Freedom from arrest

This immunity states that the members of the parliament cannot be arrested for any civil matter 40 days before and 40 days after the adjournment of the house or during the session. However, they can be arrested if the house gives its permission and where the member can still function properly without any rustication to their duties.

Freedom from being a witness to the court 

The members are not compelled to appear in front of the court as a witness. This privilege is given so that they can discharge their function without the intervention of the court.

In-house autonomy

Both the houses have the independence to conduct their own business without the intervention of anyone who is not a member of the parliament or any outside party. Both the houses do not have any authority to intervene with the proceeding conducted in the other house. Article 118 of the Indian constitution grants the houses the power to make rules and procedures for the proceedings in the respective house. They have their rule books, which lay down the rules and regulations of the proceedings to be conducted smoothly and efficiently, and they can also change the rules anytime they want. The president can make these rules with the help of the chairman of the council of states and the speaker of the house of people. The judiciary can intervene the find the proceedings to be against the law or the constitution of India. The members also have a right to bar the entry of strangers or people who are not the member of the parliament or house who might interfere or cause a delay with the proceedings of the house. The house can also punish the members who violate the privileges given to them. The members’ can be expelled from the session, and they can also be put in custody if he/she beach the privilege. 

The members enjoy certain privileges, but in the parliament, some acts can constitute contempt. These include:

  • Inaccurate statement- when such statements are inaccurate in nature and done to mislead the house,, these can be considered contempt. For these statements to be considered to be contempt, they need to be proved to be inaccurate.
  • The disturbance caused in the house- when the member or any outsider causes any disturbance in the house by shouting slogans or any other action with the intent to cause hinder the proceedings, then such person can be imprisoned or receive a warning as per the graveness of the action.
  • Assault on members- when an assault happens on the Member of Parliament done by any other person, they will be held for contempt and punished accordingly.
  • Assault on the character of member- when any words spoken or written for the member of parliament in an attempt to malign the member’s character, it will amount to contempt. These kinds of words can hinder the members’ productivity and lead to impairment of service by the member.

These are the activities that the house in case of contempt can take, but the powers are not equal to a court’s powers. In the case of Gunupati Keshavram Reddy v. Nafisul Hasan & State of U.P., a writ petition was filed habeas corpus under the article in 32 of the constitution where it was prayed that that one Sri Homi Dinshaw Mistry is being kept under illegal detention in the speaker’s custody. It was argued in the petition that Sri Mistry, on 11th March 1952, was arrested on the charge of breach of privilege and was produced before the speaker of the legislative assembly of Uttar Pradesh. 

It was argued that he was not presented in front of the magistrate within 24 hours of his initial arrest and was still in the speaker’s custody which is against Article 22(2) of the constitution. The attorney general accepted that Sri Mistry was not presented in front of the magistrate within 24 hours and was there in the speaker’s custody. The court held that this act was a clear violation of article 22(2) and ordered Sri Mistry to be released. 

Conclusion

The parliament members and the house play a significant role in the function of the country, and to ensure that they can do their tasks efficiently, they are given these privileges. They should not contravene the fundamental right that is provided in the constitution. However, the members should also be the duty that should not take undue advantage of these privileges.  

Animesh Sharma

Animesh Sharma is from Jaipur, Rajasthan. He has completed B.A. LL.B (Hons) from Manipal University Jaipur. He like to play football, listen to music, play piano, play games.

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