Indian Parliamentary Privileges [UPSC Notes]

Feature of parliamentary privileges in the Indian Constitution is borrowed from the British Constitution. The British Constitution is a source of other borrowed features like parliamentary government, the rule of law, legislative procedure, single citizenship, cabinet system, prerogative writs, and bicameralism.

The Indian parliament’s privileges among other provisions are contained in Article 79 to Article 122 of the Indian Constitution.

This article provides you with the relevant facts about the privileges and immunities enjoyed by the parliament system as a whole and the members of parliament in their individual capacity. This will help you in the preparation of Indian Polity (GS 2) of the IAS Exam.

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What is a parliamentary privilege?

Parliamentary privileges, i.e. exceptional right or advantage, are granted to the members of legislatures worldwide. Thus, in most democratic countries, the legislatures and their members enjoy certain privileges to function effectively. Privilege though part of the law of the land, is, to a certain extent an exemption from the ordinary law. It would not be wrong to say that privilege is to Parliament what prerogative is to the Crown. Just as the Crown can exercise prerogatives without help or hindrance from Parliament or the judges, the House of the Parliament can exercise privileges without help or hindrance from the Judges.

India is one of those rare examples in history where representative institutions were made available by a foreign government by slow degrees and evolved gradually.
In the Indian context, the privileges and immunities enjoyed by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are called the parliamentary privileges.

Origin of Parliamentary Privileges in India

  • The origin of Parliamentary privileges in India can be traced as far back as 1833 when a fourth member was added to the governor-general’s council following the Charter Act of 1833. A new type of legislative machinery came into existence. This laid the foundation of an institution that ultimately grew into a full-fledged law-making body by process of evolution.
  • The official aversion to the legislature’s privileges was diluted after the indirect election to the legislature was provided by the Indian Council’s Act, 1909.
  • The Government of India Act, 1935, provided that there should be freedom of speech in the legislature.
  • Today, some of the privileges of Parliament, and its members and committees, are specified in the Constitution, and there are certain statutes and the rules of procedure of the House; others continue to be based on the precedents of the House of Commons.
  • The main articles of India’s Constitution dealing with the privileges of Parliament are 105 and 122, and the corresponding articles for the states are 194 and 212. Article 105 (1) of India’s Constitution provides that, subject to the provisions of the Constitution and the rules and standing orders regulating the procedure of Parliament, there would be freedom of speech in the Parliament.

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Use of a parliamentary privilege:

  1.  The exemptions, rights or immunities provided to the members of each house of the parliament and the parliament committees secure the independence and effectiveness of the actions taken by them.
  2. The parliamentary privileges help maintain the dignity, authority and honour of the members of parliament.
  3. The parliamentary privileges help secure the members of the houses from any obstruction in their discharge of actions.

Types of Parliamentary Privileges

There are two categories of Parliament privileges in India, the specified and enumerated, and the recognized but unremunerated.

The first category includes:

  • Freedom of speech in each House of Parliament
  • Immunity from proceedings in any courts regarding anything said or voted given by a member in parliament or any committee thereof.
  • Immunity from liability regarding the publication by or under the authority of either House of Parliament, of any report, paper, votes or proceeding of either House.

In the second category, fall all those privileges which were enjoyed by the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and its members and committees, at the commencement of the Constitution of India and, would continue to be in force unless they are modified and defined by Parliament by law.

The Indian parliamentary privileges are categorised into two:

  1. Collective Privileges – Those privileges which are enjoyed by the Indian Parliament as a whole.
  2. Individual Privileges – Those privileges which are secured to the members of the parliament on an individual level.

The details of the two are listed in the table below:

Collective Privileges of the Indian Parliament

The reports, debates and proceedings can be published or denied to be published by the Indian parliament.

Note: 44th Amendment Act allowed the media to publish the true reports of the parliamentary proceedings except the same related to the house’s secret sitting. 

The Indian parliament has a right to exclude strangers from its proceedings.
The secret sittings of the houses is also a part of the parliamentary privilege.
The two houses can make rules for:

  • the regulation of their procedures 
  • Conduct of their business
  • Adjudication of their work
The parliament can suspend or expel members in case of breach of privilege
The parliament is entitled to punish the outsiders or the members for any breach of privilege by using any of the following:

  • Reprimand
  • Admonition
  • Imprisonment
The parliament has a right to receive immediate information of the arrest, detention, conviction, imprisonment and release of a member
Any enquiries can be initiated by the Indian parliament and so can be the right to call upon the witnesses
The proceedings of the houses and committees of the parliament can’t be inquired by the court
No person (either a member or outsider) can be arrested, and no legal process (civil or

criminal) can be served within the precincts of the House without the permission of the

presiding officer

Individual Privileges of the Members of the Parliament

No arrest of the member of the parliament can take place during its session. Also, members can’t be arrested 40 days before and after the session’s beginning and end of the session.
The members of parliament are entitled to the freedom of speech in the houses. They are not liable to any court proceedings for the speech given in the parliament or its committees. However, it is regulated using the rules guiding such provisions of the house.
They are exempted from jury service. They can refuse to give evidence and appear as a

witness in a case pending in a court when Parliament is in session.

Aspirants can cover the topics mentioned in the UPSC Syllabus of General Studies-II by following the below-mentioned links:

What are the sources of privileges?

The five sources of the privileges are:

  1. Constitutional provisions
  2. Various laws made by Parliament
  3. Rules of both the Houses
  4. Parliamentary conventions
  5. Judicial interpretations

Facts

  1. The provisions related to the parliamentary privileges of the parliament (members and committees) can be amended using the simple majority of the parliament.
  2. President is not entitled to the parliamentary privileges.
  3. Without taking the oath before the Indian President, the privileges and immunities are not granted to the member of the parliament.
  4. The Lok Sabha speaker is the guardian of the Lok Sabha members’ privileges and the committees of this house of the parliament.
  5. The privilege of the deputy speaker of Lok Sabha:
    • He automatically is granted the seat of the chairman of the parliamentary committee he is a member of.
  6. There is a motion named ‘Privilege Motion‘ used to censure a minister for the breach of the parliamentary privilege.
  7. Adjournment motion and token cut motion can’t be used to raise the question of privilege.
  8. Lok Sabha has the exclusive privilege to vote on the demand for grants.
  9. The parliament has the judicial power to punish the members of the houses or the outsider for any breach of privilege.
  10. There is a committee called ‘Committee of Privileges’ which is of semi-judicial nature. It is responsible for examining the privileges’ breach. There are 15 members in the committee of privileges for Lok Sabha while there are 10 members for the same committee in Rajya Sabha.
  11. The persons who are allowed to speak in the proceedings of either house of the parliament are also entitled to the privileges of the Parliament. Example – Attorney General of India and Union Ministers.

Other related articles:

Overview of Constitution of India Preamble to the Constitution of India
Constituent Assembly of India Types of Amendments in the Indian Constitution
Schedules in Indian Constitution Basic Structure Doctrine of the Indian Constitution
Types of Constitutional Bodies in India Important Supreme Court Judgments in India

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