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Breach of Parliamentary privilege

Breach of Parliamentary privilege

UPSC CSE Mains Syllabus: GS-2- Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges
and issues arising out of these.

Breach of Parliamentary privilege

Parliamentary Privileges:

  • The powers, privileges and immunities of either House of the Indian Parliament and of its Members and committees are laid down in Article 105 of the Constitution.
  • Article 194 deals with the powers, privileges and immunities of the State Legislatures, their Members and their committees.
  • Parliamentary privilege refers to the right and immunity enjoyed by legislatures, in which legislators are granted protection against civil or criminal liability for actions done or statements made in the course of their legislative duties.

Breach of privilege:

  • The Constitution has accorded special privileges and powers to parliamentarians and legislators to maintain the dignity and authority of the Houses.
  • However, these powers and privileges are not codified.
  • Thus, there are no clear, notified rules to decide what constitutes a breach of privilege, and the punishment it attracts.
  • Any act that obstructs or impedes either House of the state legislature in performing its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results is treated as breach of privilege.
  • It is a breach of privilege and contempt of the House to make speeches or to print or publish libel reflecting on the character or proceedings of the House, or its Committees, or on any member of the House for or relating to his character or conduct as a legislator.

Procedure to be followed in cases of alleged breach of the legislature’s privilege:

  • The Legislative Assembly Speaker or Legislative Council Chairman constitutes a Privileges Committee consisting of 15 members in the Assembly and 11 members in the Council.
  • The members to the committee are nominated based on the party strength in the Houses.

Maharashtra case:

  • Anant Kalse, retired principal secretary of the Maharashtra State Legislature, said that the Speaker or Chairman first decides on the motions. “If the privilege and contempt are found prima facie, then the Speaker or Chairman will forward it to the Privileges Committee by following the due procedure,” Kalse said.
  • In Goswami’s case, the Committee will examine whether statements made by him had insulted the state legislature and its Members, and whether their image was maligned before the public.
  • At present, there is no Privileges Committee in either House of the state legislature. Kalse said that the Committee, which has quasi-judicial powers, will seek an explanation from all the concerned, will conduct an inquiry and will make a recommendation based on the findings to the state legislature for its consideration.

Punishment for breach:

  • If the Committee finds the offender guilty of breach of privilege and contempt, it can recommend the punishment.
  • The punishment can include communicating the displeasure of the state legislature to the offender, summoning the offender before the House and giving a warning, and even sending the offender to jail.
  • In the case of the media, press facilities of the state legislature may be withdrawn, and a public apology may be sought.

Source:”Indian Express”.

POSSIBLE UPSC MAINS EXAMINATION:

Explain the source of parliamentary privileges? What constitutes breach of privilege?