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Parliamentary privileges

Parliamentary privileges

Introduction

  • The Indian Constitution's Article 105 defines parliamentary privileges. 
  • Members of Parliament are not held liable in civil or criminal court for their words or acts while carrying out their official duties.  
  • Only when a person is a member of the House can they make use of the privileges
  • The privileges are supposed to be terminated as soon as he ceases to be a member. 
  • The members' privileges are required to carry out their constitutional duties. 
  • These rights are crucial for all processes and functions' orderly and disciplined conduct.

    Privileges individually enjoyed by the members:

Freedom of speech in parliament: The right to free speech and expression has been granted to parliamentarians. Since a free and fearless exchange of ideas is at the heart of our parliamentary system, everything they say expressing those ideas is exempt from legal liability and cannot be brought to court for review.A member of the parliament is not entitled to the same freedom of speech and expression that a citizen does under Article 19(2) of the Constitution. According to Article 105(1) of the Indian Constitution, it is guaranteed. However, freedom is constrained by the laws and decrees that govern parliamentary procedures.

Freedom from arrest: Members are not subject to arrest in any civil matter for 40 days before and after the House's adjournment and when the House is in session. To prevent any interference with their ability to perform their duties, members must be detained beyond the walls of the parliament with the consent of the House to which they are assigned.

Freedom from appearing as a witness: The members of the parliament have special rights and are not required to testify in court. They can go to the House and carry out their responsibilities without the court getting in.

Power to make rules of procedure: Each House of Parliament has the authority to establish rules that will govern how it does its business, according to Article 118. Rules of Process and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha and Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States are the rule books each House has adopted.

Privileges enjoyed by the members collectively as part of parliament

  • Right to prohibit the publication of proceedings: 
      • No one shall be held accountable for publishing any reports, deliberations, etc., of the House under the authority of the member of the House, as specified in Article 105(2) of the Constitution. The public must be informed of the proceedings since they are of the utmost national importance, so they are aware of what is happening in the parliament.
      • Nonetheless, any incomplete report of a disconnected part of the proceedings or any publication made to harm is ineligible for protection. Protection is only provided if it accurately depicts the House's actual proceedings. If any erased proceedings are published or if there is misinformation or inaccurate reporting, it is considered a breach of the parliamentary privilege and an act of contempt of the House.
    • Right to exclude strangers: The members of the House have the authority and right to prevent strangers and other non-members from participating in the proceedings. This right is crucial for ensuring fair and open debate in the House. If a breach is reported, a warning, reprimand, or even imprisonment may be imposed as punishment.
  • The right to punish members and outsiders for breach of its privileges: 
    • The Indian Parliament can penalise anyone for violating its rules or showing a member of the house contempt. A member of the House is expelled from the home if they violate any rules.
    • This privilege is the "keystone of parliamentary privilege" because it is crucial to protecting the House's authority and performing its duties. Without it, the House can be disregarded or violated. In the majority of cases, the judiciary has likewise supported this power. The House may detain any person or member for contempt while the House is in session.
  • The right to regulate the internal affairs of the House: Each House is free to control how its business is conducted in whatever way it sees fit. Each House has its jurisdiction over the House, and neither House's power may interfere with the control of the other House's internal affairs. The House has the authority to conduct its regulations for proceedings under Article 118 of the Constitution. It is not subject to legal challenge because it is not following the norms established under that article. Additionally, the Supreme Court ruled that this was a general rule and that the House was not bound by it. They are free to alter or depart from the rule at any time.

Judicial review of the parliamentary privileges

  • The duty of upholding fundamental rights has been given to the Indian judicial system. Members of parliament assert complete sovereignty over their authority and, in any case, want the judiciary to avoid getting involved. Nevertheless, because the judiciary is considered the protector of our Constitution, it cannot remain silent when a citizen's fundamental rights are violated because of privileges or when there is a way to avoid facing criminal responsibility.
  • The judge must speak out against the wrongs carried out by those who are abusing their privileges. In Keshav Singh's case, the Supreme Court noted that members' privileges are subject to basic rights.
  • The Supreme Court has also ruled that a harmonious construction approach should overcome any inconsistency between privileges and fundamental rights. The judiciary is fully aware that it lacks jurisdiction over parliamentary proceedings. However, it is crucial for a society that the court deal with any violations as it sees fit.

Freedom of the press and the parliamentary privileges

  • The freedom of the press, a fundamental right, is constrained by parliamentary privileges. 
  • The press must exercise extreme caution when reporting on the behaviour of any member of the parliament or its proceedings. 
  • Sometimes, the press may be held accountable for the House's contempt.
    • publishing any information on a member of the parliament's character
    • Any early release of the proceedings
    • Misreporting or distorting the House's proceedings 
    • Posting the section of the proceedings that was deleted.
  • Even though parliamentary privileges have some influence over press freedom, legislation has been passed to preserve it—the Parliamentary Proceedings (Protection of the Publication) Act of 1977 safeguards journalistic freedom in specific conditions.
    • The reports of the proceedings are substantially true.
    • The report is made without malice.
    • The report is made for the public good.
    • The report should not constitute any secret meeting of the House.




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