Parliamentary Privileges

Parliamentary Privileges - Constitutional Organs

Parliamentary Privileges is defined by Sir T.F.May as:

“Some of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively as a constituent part of the Parliament and by the members of each house individually, without which they could not discharge their functions and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals.

The constitutional provisions regarding privileges of the state Legislature and Parliament are identical. Articles 105 and 194 provide for privileges of the Legislature in India. While Article 105 deals with Parliament Article 194 deals with State Legislatures.

The Constitution expressly mentions two privileges (a) freedom of speech in the legislature and (b) right of publication of its proceedings. Prior to the 44th Amendment with regard to other privileges Article 105 (3) provided that the powers, privileges and immunities of each House until they were defined by the Parliament shall be those of the House of Commons in England.

After the 44th Amendment Article 105 now provides that in other respects, the powers, privileges and immunities of each House of Parliament, and of the members and the committees of each House, shall be such as may from time to time be defined by Parliament, and, until so defined, shall be those of that House and of its members and committees immediately before the coming into force of the 44th Amendment Act, 1978. 

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Freedom of Speech:-

In England this privilege of the House of Commons is well established. It has been given statutory recognition by Bill of Rights in 1689 which says that the freedom of speech or debates in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or out of Parliament.

The Indian Constitution expressly guarantees this privilege in Article 105 which says—

“There shall be freedom of speech in Parliament and that no Member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any Committee thereof.”

This article thus gives absolute immunity from Courts for anything said within the four walls of the House during the course of proceedings of the House or its Committees.

So what is protected is the speech within the House. Outside the House a member of House is a good as any other citizen and if a member repeats or publishes a defamatory speech made by him within the House, he does so on his own responsibility and risk and will be held liable for prosecution under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code.

Parliamentary Privileges

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By Hassham

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