Privileges & immunities of parliament and its members

Privileges, immunities of parliament and its members

Introduction :

Article 105 and Article 194 grants privileges or advantages to the members of the parliament so that they can perform their duties or can function properly without any hindrances. Such privileges are granted as they are needed for democratic functioning. Such powers, privileges and immunities should be defined by the law from time-to-time.

Privileges enshrined in the Constitution :

Freedom of speech and publication under the constitution

It is defined under Article 105(1) and clause (2). It provides the members of parliament freedom of speech under clause (1) and provides under Article 105(2) that no member of parliament will be liable in any proceedings before any Court for anything which is said or any vote given by him in the Parliament or any committee thereof. Also no one will be held liable for any publication of any report, paper, votes or proceedings if the publication is made by the parliament or any authority under it. effect in conflict. The same provisions are mentioned under Article 194, in that members of the legislature of a state is referred instead of members of parliament. ,

Article 19(1)(a) and Article 105 of the Constitution tells about freedom of speech. Article 105 applies to the members of parliament and not subjected to any reasonable restriction. Article19(1)(a) is applicable to citizens but are subject to reasonable restrictions.

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P.V. NARSIMHA RAO v. STATE (1998)

In this case some of the MP’s received bribes to vote against the motion of no-confidence against the Prime Minister P.V. Narsimha Rao. Rao was charged under IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act on the grounds that he bribed some MPs to vote against the no-confidence motion when he was serving as the Prime Minister. Here, the question raised was that under Article 105(2) does any member of parliament have any immunity to protect himself in criminal proceedings against him.

It was held by the majority that under Article 105(2) the members of the parliament will get immunity and thereby the activity of taking bribe by the MP’s would get immunity despite anything said by them or any vote given by them in the Parliament. The Court further stated that the word “anything” here will be interpreted as a wider term. The Court interpreted the term “anything” in a much wider sense and did not prosecute P.V. Narsimha Rao.

Parliamentary Privileges and fundamental rights

Part III of the Constitution consists of fundamental rights wherein Article 19(1)(a) grants freedom of speech to the citizens. It is subjected to reasonable restrictions. These restrictions are:-

Sovereignty and integrity of India must be maintained,

Security of the states must be maintained,

Public order should not be disturbed,

Decency and morality should be maintained,

Defamation should be avoided,

Incitement to an offence should be prevented.

Contempt of court should be avoided,

Friendly relations with foreign states should be secured.

Where on the other hand the members of parliament have been granted powers, privileges ,their powers or privileges are absolute unlike fundamental rights for the citizens.

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Article 105(3) and Article 194(3) states that the parliament should time to time define the laws or pass the laws on the powers, privileges and immunities of the members of the parliament ,members of the legislative assembly.

Case Law:

MSM Sharma v. Sri Krishna Sinha AIR 1959 SC395

  • The facts of the case:-the petitioner was the editor of the English Daily ( A newspaper of Patna). He published a report on the proceedings of the Bihar Legislative Assembly and the reports were said to be removed by the speaker.
  • The editor was produced before the Legislative Assembly to give reasons for the breach of privilege committed by him. first, he was held guilty for his conduct. Then, in appeal, the editor under Article 19 (1)(a) argued that he has a right to freedom of speech. But the Court rejected all the arguments based on Article 19(1)(a) as it is a general provision and Article 194 is a special provision. If at any time both of the articles come under any dispute the latter will prevail over the former. As the general provision cannot overrule the effect of the special provision.

It has been suggested that if Articles 19(1)(a) and 194, are in conflict, the rule of Harmonious Construction (every statute should be read as a whole and interpretations which are consistent of all the provisions of the statute should be adopted when in conflict of any statute or any part of the statute) should be applied.

Privileges and the law courts

Article 143 empowers the President to consult the Supreme Court if at any time it appears to the President that a question of fact or a law arises or arise in future. Also, such questions should be of public importance or it must be advantageous to seek the opinion of the Supreme Court. after such hearing, if the court thinks it relevant, it may give its opinion to the President.

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The house of parliament though have a lot of powers, privileges and immunities but apart all these advantages it cannot act or perform similar to a Court. The Courts are the body who interprets the laws or acts passed by the parliament. For example if any offence is committed even in the house of parliament the jurisdiction vests with the ordinary Courts.

Conclusion

After examining Article 105 and 194, one can clearly infer their absoluteness. These special provisions are provided to the Parliament for its effective functioning. These articles also confers duties upon them to make effective laws which do not harm the rights of others.

Author: Harshita Swami,
Guwahati University, BALLB9th sem

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