Introduction

The concept of parliamentary privileges was taken from the British Constitution. Article 105 and 194 talk about privileges or advantages to the Member of The Parliament. Such provisions are crucial for the democratic functioning of the country. The main motive of these provisions in the constitution is to uphold the supremacy of The Parliament’s office and its members. But the President, who is an integral part of The Parliament, does not have parliamentary privileges. Initially, the constitution of India provides only two parliamentary privileges. In other privileges, they were to be the same as those of the House of Commons on its commencement date ( 26 January 1950 ) until The Parliament defines. The 44th amendment act, 1978 states that the other privileges of each House of Parliament, its members, and its committees are those which we had on the date of commencement ( 20 June 1979) until The Parliament defines.

The main motive of this amendment was to make verbal changes by dropping a direct reference to the British House of Commons. The Parliament has not made any specific law to codify all the privileges till now.    

History of Parliamentary Privileges in India

The Government of India Act of 1919 takes the first step to regulate parliamentary privileges in the country. The act provided limited Privileges to legislators in India. Freedom of speech for the members of the central legislature under the act. Freedom with so many limitations. Neither were any punitive powers conferred on the legislators nor was Freedom from Arrest provided. The act of 1935 also did not change anything materially. Legislators loudly protested against having no parliamentary privileges. But no attention was paid by the British Government of India. From 1919 to 1947, there was a lot of struggle between Indian legislators and the British Government for parliamentary privileges. But the battle was worth waging. 

 Privileges That Is Provides To Member of House Individually

  • They cannot arrest in civil matters only during the session,40 days before the beginning, and 40 days after the end of the session.
  • They have Freedom of Speech.
  • During the parliament
  • ary session, they can refuse to appear as a witness. And give pieces of evidence in a case that is pending in courts. 
  • House of Parliament

 Provides Privileges Collectively

  • It has the right to publish its debates, reports, and proceedings. Along with it, it also has the right to prohibit others. The 44th amendment allows the press to publish the Report of parliamentary proceedings without prior permission. But in the case of Secret sitting, this amendment is not applicable.
  • It has the right to hold secret sittings to discuss some important matters and can exclude strangers from its proceedings.
  • It can make rules to regulate the conduct of its business and its procedure.
  • It can punish its member for the breach of privileges or its contempt by imprisonment, suspension, expulsion, or reprimand.
  • The court has no right to inquire into the proceedings of a house or its committees.
  • No person can be arrested and no legal process can serve within the boundaries of The Parliament without the permission of the presiding officer.

Breach of Privilege

 When Rights of the House or the members individually are

Ignored or attacked any of the privileges, immunities, is called the Breach of Privilege. Likewise, disobedience to its authority, members, or officers is also punishable as Contempt of the House. Any act or omission that either hinders or obstructs the  House of Parliament in the performance of its functions or hinders any member or officer of such a house in the execution of his duty or which tends to produce such result which is directly or indirectly considered as a Contempt of Parliament.

Landmark Judgments

  • P.V. Narsimha Rao v. State

 In this case, some Members of Parliament take bribes to vote against Prime Minister P.V. Narsimha Rao against a no-confidence motion. Afterward, he was charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act and IPC. The question raised in this case was that under Article 105(2) does any parliament member have any immunity to protect himself in criminal proceedings against him? Thus the court interpreted the “anything” term in the broader sense and did not prosecute P.V. Narsimha Rao and hence dismissed the case.

  • Keshava Singh v. Speaker, Legislative Assembly

In this case, Keshava Singh, a non-legislative member of the assembly, printed and published a pamphlet.  He was criticized for contempt and breach of Privileges by the speaker of the U.P legislative assembly speaker. The same day in the House, Mr. Keshava committed a Breach of Privileges by his conduct. The court held that it does not amount to contempt.

  • Sir John Eliot Case

In this case, the court of King’s Bench convicted Eliot for seditious speeches made in the House of Commons. The House of Lords reversed the decision. Afterward, Bills of Right laid down that the courts or any place outside The Parliament have no right to decide on speeches and debates or proceedings in The Parliament.

  • Tej Kiran Jain and others v. N. Sanjeeva Reddy and others

In this case, plaintiffs were disciples of Jagadguru Shankaracharya. But at the World Hindu Religious Conference, Jagadguru made certain remarks on untouchability. After a discussion takes place in Lok Sabha in which derogatory words are delivered against Jagadguru. His disciples filed a suit against six members. The Supreme Court dismissed the plea by giving reasons. Under Article 105(1), whatever happens in Parliament during sitting or in the course of business was immunized.

Conclusion

As under Article 105(3), The Parliament has powers to codify the privileges. But no laws have been enacted by the Parliament so far. The Judiciary and Legislature must work in cooperation for any democratic constitution. These institutions have an ultimate motive for the smooth functioning of democracy. But the constitutional provisions of the Privileges of Parliament are vague. The easiest way to solve this conflict between Judiciary and Parliament lies in harmonizing the relationship between the two organs by properly codifying the privileges to remove unclear interpretations. 

The article has been written by Megha Patel, a 2nd -year law student at The Mody University of Science and Technology, Laxmangarh, Rajasthan.

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