News Excerpt
Congress has recently moved a Privilege motion against Social Justice Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot over his statement on the issue of reservation.

●    Parliamentary privileges are enjoyed by the two Houses of Parliament, their committees and their members.
●    The Constitution has also extended the parliamentary privileges to those persons who are entitled to speak and take part in the proceedings of a House of Parliament or any of its committees. These include the attorney general of India and Union ministers.
●    A notable exclusion is the president who though is an integral part of the Parliament do not have Parliamentary privileges. The President has more privileges under other provisions of the Constitution.
●    Parliamentary privileges are not yet codified. They are based on five sources 1. The Constitution (Article 105; Article 194) 2. Laws passed by Parliament 3. Rules of both the Houses, 4. Parliamentary conventions, and 5. Judicial interpretations.

What are Parliamentary Privileges?
Parliamentary privileges are special rights, immunities and exemptions enjoyed by the Parliament as an institution and MPs in their individual capacity.
Need of Parliamentary Privileges
They are necessary in order to secure the independence and effectiveness of their actions. Without these privileges, the Houses can neither maintain their authority, dignity and honor nor can protect their members from any obstruction in the discharge of their parliamentary responsibilities.

Privilege Motion
●    Parliament can punish members as well as outsiders for breach of its privileges or its contempt by reprimand, admonition or imprisonment (also suspension or expulsion, in case of members).
●    A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege.
●    The Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion himself or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament.
●    The most significant case of action taken on a privilege was in 1978 when Indira Gandhi was expelled from the House. Then home minister Charan Singh moved a resolution of breach of privilege against her following observations made by the Justice Shah Commission which probed excesses during the Emergency.

Privilege motion is an important tool in the hand of Parliamentarians to ensure effective working of the Parliament. However, it must be used only in genuine cases to avoid misuse particularly when involving it against an outsider i.e. those who are not members of the Parliament.

Privilege Committee
In Lok Sabha: consists of 15 members nominated by the Speaker
In Rajya Sabha: Consists of 10 members nominated by the Chairperson. The deputy chairperson heads the committee of privileges.

Need for codification of Parliamentary privileges
    All persons have a right to trial by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal.
    Breach of privilege laws allow politicians to become judges in their own cause, raising concerns of conflict of interest and violating basic fair trial guarantees.
    The main argument for a legislation is that there would be clarity on the exact boundaries that may not be crossed, and on which penal action may be taken.
    On the other hand, a law could lead to intervention by courts.
    Our legislators basically resist codification, because it would make the privileges subject to judicial scrutiny.

Article 105, Article 194