Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

How are Rajya Sabha members punished for misconduct in the House?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 20

Mains level : Paper 2- Provision for punishing the Members of Rajya Sabha for misconduct inside House

Context

The Chairman of the Rajya Sabha is reportedly contemplating action against MPs who, he thinks, were involved in the fracas in the House.

Provisions in House Rules of Rajya Sabha for punishing members

1) For conduct inside the House

  • Ground for punishment: Rule 256 of the Rajya Sabha’s Rules of Procedure specifies the acts of misconduct: Disregarding the authority of the chair, abusing the rules of the council by persistently and willfully obstructing the business thereof.
  • However, the power to suspend a member is vested in the House, not in the chairman.
  • Under the rule, the maximum period of suspension is for the remainder of the session.
  •  By convention, a suspended member loses his right to get replies to his questions.
  • Thus, suspension from the service of the House is regarded as a serious punishment.
  • But, surprisingly, the rules do not spell out the disabilities of a suspended member.
  • These are imposed on them as per conventions or precedent.
  • Suspension for the remainder of the session makes sense only when they are suspended immediately after the misconduct has been noticed by the chair.
  • The rules of the House do not empower Parliament to inflict any punishment on its members other than suspension for creating disorder in the House.

2) Misconduct outside the House

  • For the acts of misconduct by the MPs outside the House, which constitute a breach of privilege or contempt of the House, usually the privilege committee investigates the matter and recommends the course of action and the House acts on it.
  • A special committee is appointed usually when the misconduct is so serious that the House may consider expelling the member.
  • Special committee was appointed in 2005 to inquire into the issue of MPs accepting money for raising questions in Parliament.
  • So, special ad-hoc committees are appointed only to investigate serious misconduct by MPs outside the House.

Issue in the present context

  • It appears that the Rajya Sabha secretariat has prepared a report on the incident in the Rajya Sabhi, which accuses some MPs of assaulting security personnel.
  • But special ad-hoc committees are appointed only to investigate serious misconduct by MPs outside the House.
  • No special committee is required to go into what happens before the eyes of the presiding officer inside the House.
  • As per the rules of the House, they need to be dealt with then and there.
  • The rules do not recognise any punishment other than suspension for a specific period and in this case, the Session is already over.
  • Article 20 of the Constitution prohibits a greater penalty than what the law provided at the time of committing the offence.

Conclusion

Punishing the MPs for their misconduct in the House is restricted by the provision in the House rules. These restrictions need to be looked into in the face of growing disruption by the members.

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