Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

What constitutes a breach of the legislature’s privilege?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Breach of Priviliges in Legislation

Mains level : Not Much

A motion for breach of privilege was moved in the Maharashtra Assembly against a news channel’s editor-in-chief. A similar motion was moved in the Maharashtra Legislative Council against an actor.

Try this PYQ:

Q.With reference to the Parliament of India, which of the following Parliamentary Committees scrutinizes and reports to the House whether the powers to make regulations, rules, sub-rules, by-laws etc. conferred by the constitution of delegated by the Parliament are being properly exercised by the Executive within the scope of such delegation?

(a) Committee on Government Assurances

(b) Committee on Subordinate Legislation

(c) Rules Committee

(d) Business Advisory Committee

Provisions to protect the privileges of the legislature

  • 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.

What constitutes a breach of this privilege?

  • While the Constitution has accorded special privileges and powers to parliamentarians and legislators to maintain the dignity and authority of the Houses, 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 a breach of privilege.
  • It is a breach of privilege and contempt 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 followed in cases of an alleged breach

  • 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 which has quasi-judicial powers are nominated based on the party strength in the Houses.
  • 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.
  • At present, there is no Privileges Committee in either House of the state legislature.
  • The Committee 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.

What is the punishment for this?

  • 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.
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