Parliamentary Privileges

News: A chief whip of the largest party in opposition in the Rajya Sabha has moved a privilege motion against Culture Minister over the appointment of the chairperson of the National Monuments Authority.

What is Parliamentary Privilege?

  • Parliamentary privilege refers to the right and immunity enjoyed by legislatures. The legislators are granted protection against civil or criminal liability for actions done or statements made in the course of their legislative duties. They are granted so that the MPs/MLAs can effectively discharge their functions.
  • 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.
  • When any of the rights and immunities are disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament. A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege.
  • Each House also claims the right to punish as contempt actions which, while not breach of any specific privilege, are offences against its authority and dignity.
  • Rule No 222 in Chapter 20 of the Lok Sabha Rule Book and correspondingly Rule 187 in Chapter 16 of the Rajya Sabha rulebook govern privilege.
  • It says that a member may, with the consent of the Speaker or the Chairperson, raise a question involving a breach of privilege either of a member or of the House or of a committee thereof.
  • The rules however mandate that any notice should be relating to an incident of recent occurrence and should need the intervention of the House. Notices have to be given before 10 am to the Speaker or the Chairperson.
  • The Speaker/RS chairperson is the first level of scrutiny of a privilege motion. The Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion himself or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament. If the Speaker/Chair gives consent under Rule 222, the member concerned is given an opportunity to make a short statement.
  • In the Lok Sabha, the Speaker nominates a committee of privileges consisting of 15 members as per respective party strengths. A report is then presented to the House for its consideration. The Speaker may permit a half-hour debate while considering the report. The Speaker may then pass final orders or direct that the report be tabled before the House. A resolution may then be moved relating to the breach of privilege that has to be unanimously passed.
  • In the Rajya Sabha, the deputy chairperson heads the committee of privileges, which consists of 10 members.