|1.||Facts of the Case|
|2.||Issues of the case|
|5.||Generalis Specialibus Non-Derogant|
122 of 1958
1959 AIR 396
Date of Judgment
The Supreme Court of India
Chief Justice Sudhi Ranjan Das, Justice Natwarlal H. Bhagwati, Justice Bhuvneshwar P. Sinha, Justice K. Subbarao, Justice K.N. Wanchoo.
Certain privileges are being provided to the parliament collectively as well as individually so that they can effectively discharge their functions without any kind of hesitation. Article 105 deals with the power and privileges of the house of parliament whereas Article 194 deals with the power and privileges of the house of Legislators. The case of Pandit M.S.M. Sharma v. Shri Sri Krishna Sinha and Others not only deals with the conflict between the legislator and the court but also between the legislator and a citizen. In the Judgment part of this case, it was held by the court of law that the legislative assembly does have the power to regulate the publication of debate and other proceedings. However, this act might curtail an individual’s Fundamental Rights i.e. Right to Freedom of Speech, in this case, analysis, we will critically analyze why the court has given such implications and what is the validity of such implications.
Facts of the Case
In the case, the petitioner M.S.M. Sharma was a journalist at the “Searchlight” which was an English Newspaper operated in Patna, Bihar. On May 30, 1957, one of the members of the Bihar Legislative assembly whose name was, Maheshwar Prasad Narayan Sinha delivered a speech in Bihar Legislative Assembly in his speech he made some statements regarding Mahesh Prasad Singh that he was the one who guided the Chief Minister in the selection process of the other ministers and he also cited certain instances of favouritism. Further, it was alleged by Maheshwar Prasad Narayan Sinha in his speech that ministers were not given the proper ministries to which they were entitled and for which the conventional process should have been followed for the appointment. Many other instances regarding corruption were mentioned by him in the speech, he took the example of the District Judge who was only transferred from one place to another but was not discharged as per the advice of the Chief Justice of the High Court, Bihar. Further many other instances were discussed by him which were regarding the corruption and criticism of the prevailing government.
The Speaker of the assembly held that the part of the speech made by Maheshwar Prasad Narayan Sinha was objectional and directed it to be expunged. However, no specific directions were given to the Press, the speaker meant by saying this that the publication of the part of the speech which criticized the government must not be made.
On May 31, 1957, the part of the speech that was expunged by the speaker and was directed by him that publication of these parts must not be done, was published by the newspaper “Searchlight”. On 10th June 1957 Nawal Kishore Sinha, a member of the state legislative assembly questioned the same in the assembly. The matter was soon transferred to the Privilege Committee. After the evaluation of the entire facts for almost after more than a year on 18th August 1958 M.S.M. Sharma was summoned before the Privilege Committee and was asked to reply as to why an action against him must not be taken as he has done the breach of subsisting privileges. Further, the proceeding regarding the breach of privilege was initiated against the editor. M.S.M. Sharma moved to the court under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution for quashing the said proceeding and he raised the question was whether the said privilege under Article 194 was subject to the Fundamental Right under Article 19(1)(a).
Issues of the case
- Does the legislative assembly have a power under Article 194(3) of the Indian Constitution to prohibit the publication of the statement which is being done publicly in the house?
- Do the legislative assembly privileges under Article 194 of the Indian Constitution prevail over the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution specifically Freedom of Speech and Expression?
Arguments from the Petitioner’s side:
- The notice issued by the committee and the proceeding initiated by them violates his fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution as well as it violates his personal life and liberty assured under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
- They further argued that as the petitioner of the newspaper petitioner is entitled to Freedom of the Press.
- The notice which was issued by the privilege committee was invalid as the Chief Minister of Bihar was the chairman of the Privilege Committee.
Arguments from the Respondent’s side:
- The respondent relied on the Article 194 of the Indian Constitution.
- They argued that the state legislative assembly can exercise similar powers, privileges, and immunities as the British House of Commons, where the proceedings of the assembly cannot be published.
- They further argued that the part of the speech which was directed to be expunged cannot be published by anyone under any circumstances as it was expressly prohibited.
- If a such publication is being made which was being prohibited then such publication is a breach of the privileges of the Assembly.
The court of law held that in accordance with Article 194(3) of the Indian Constitution, the state legislative assembly of Bihar does have the same immunities, privileges and power as the British House of Commons. It was said that since Bihar legislative assembly did not have passed any law concerning the power, privileges, and immunities of the legislative assembly and hence legislative assembly of Bihar will enjoy similar power privileges, privileges, and immunities as that of the British House of Commons. In the British House of Commons, there is a framed order that no member shall give a copy or publish any kind of stuff that has happened during the preceding of the House i.e. no publication of the statement must be made that has taken place in the House. Therefore while dealing with the issue of publication regarding the proceeding of parliament or the legislative assembly the law and order of the British House of Commons should be taken into the consideration.
The petitioner said that Article 194(3) is curtailing his Fundamental Rights under Article 19(1) (a) the court has interpreted this question of has concluded that the legislative privilege under Article 194(3) does not abridge the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution under Article 19(1) (a) and explanation regarding the same was given. The court of law said that in (1) it is being mentioned that “subject to the provisions of the constitution” whereas in clauses (2) to (4) it has not been stated as subject to. Therefore it can be assumed that Constitutional makers did not intend that that clause should be subject to the provisions of the Indian constitution and hence Article 194(3) does not breach the Fundamental Rights which are guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. Further, the court of law stated that if any provision of the Indian Constitution takes away or abridges the Fundamental Right then in that case it is a violation of Article 13 and the provision that violates the Fundamental Right must be void. But, since Article 194(3) is perfectly valid it can be inferred that it does not violate Article 13 of the Indian Constitution.
However in this case the dissenting opinion was given by Justice Subbarao he quotes the case of Gunupati Keshavram Reddy v. Nafisul Hasan and said that Article 194(3) is subjected to Part III i.e. Articles 12 to 35 which deals with Fundamental Rights.
Generalis Specialibus Non-Derogant
The meaning of above stated legal maxim is – where there is a special right, general rights will not be applicable. From the above discussion, we can infer that the Parliamentary Privileges or the State Legislative Privileges are special rights, and in case the Fundamental Rights are the General Rights. In the case of Pandit M.S.M. Sharma v. Shri Sri Krishna Sinha and Others, this was one of the key areas where consideration could have been taken and to a certain extent, it was taken. Therefore, the general principles or general rules won’t be applicable in cases where there is a special right. The same was with the condition of Article 194(3) these are the special rights that are being given to the parliament for their effective and efficient working so that they can effectively discharge their functions. And the Fundamental Rights given under 19(1) (a) is the general right that is not applicable in the circumstances in which there is a special privileges/rights and the fines example of the situation is the case of Pandit M.S.M. Sharma v. Shri Sri Krishna Sinha and Others.
In the case of Azad Transport Co. v. State of Bihar it was considered that the VAT is a special provision and rules in CrPC are considered to be general.
From the above discussion and the analysis of facts, issues, and the judgment of the case it can be said that the court in its majority decision tries to establish the harmonious construction between the prevailing Fundamental Rights and the privileges given to the parliament and the state legislature. The significance judgment of this case is of paramount importance as it serves as the judicial precedent after this particular case. After the decision was delivered by the court, the assembly was prorogued several times and the privilege committee was reconstructed which issued a fresh notice of petition in the court of law against M.S.M. Sharma. As a result, M.S.M. Sharma moved to the court seeking to reopen the same issue. The court held that the principle of res judicata is applicable in this particular case and held that the matter is already decided which is binding on the petitioner.
However, one question remained open in this case and that was whether Article 21 is being affected because of the privileges given to the parliament or state legislative. The question regarding the subjection of Article 19(1) (a) was solved by the court of law i.e. Article 19(1) (a) is not subject to the privileges. But the court of law failed in this case to answer the question relating to Article 21, whether it overrides the privileges or not.
- INDIA CONST, art. 105
- INDIA CONST, art. 194
- Pandit M.S.M. Sharma v. Shri Sri Krishna Sinha and Others, 1959 AIR 396
- INDIA CONST, art. 19(1)(a)
- Supra note iv
- Gunupati Keshavram Reddy v. Nafisul Hasan, AIR 1954 SC 636
- Supra note iii
This case analysis is authored by Prashant Prasad, a second-year law student from University Law College.