A simple definition of privilege is that it is an exceptional right or exemption. In its legal sense it means an exemption from some duty, burden, attendance or liability to which others are subject. In Parliamentary language, however, the term applies to certain rights and immunities enjoyed by each House of Parliament collectively, and by members of each House individually without which they cannot discharge their functions. The object of Parliamentary privileges is to safeguard the freedom, the authority and the dignity of Parliament. Privileges are necessary for the proper exercise of the functions entrusted to Parliament by the Constitution. They are enjoyed by individual members, because the House cannot perform its functions without unimpeded use of the service of its members, and by each House collectively for the protection of its member and the vindication of its own authority and dignity.
It must, however, be remembered that the privileges of Parliament are granted to members in order that they may be able to perform their duty in Parliament without any let or hindrance. They are available to individual member only in so far as they are necessary for the House to perform its functions freely. They do not exempt the members from the obligations to the society which apply to other citizens. Privileges of Parliament do not place a member of Parliament on a footing different from that of an ordinary citizen in the matter of the application of laws, unless there are good and sufficient reasons in the interest of Parliament itself to do so. The fundamental principle is that all citizens including members of Parliament have to be treated equally in the eyes of law. Unless so provided in the Constitution or in any law a member of Parliament cannot claim any higher privileges than those enjoyed by an ordinary citizen in the matter of the application of the laws
India is called the world’s largest democratic country. The power to make law exists with the Indian Parliament. The members of the lower house of Parliament are elected from the direct election while the members of the upper house are elected from the Legislative Assembly of States and Union territories by means of Single transferable vote through Proportional representation.
Parliamentary privileges are defined in Article 105 of the Indian Constitution and those of State legislatures in Article 194. Parliamentary privilege refers to rights and immunities enjoyed by Parliament as an institution and MPs in their individual capacity, without which they cannot discharge their functions as entrusted upon them by the Constitution. According to the Constitution, the powers, privileges and immunities of Parliament and MP’s are to be defined by Parliament. No law has so far been enacted in this respect. In the absence of any such law, it continues to be governed by British Parliamentary conventions.
Privileges of Parliamentarians:
• Freedom of Speech: According to the Indian Constitution, the members of Parliament enjoy freedom of speech and expression. No member can be taken to task anywhere outside the four walls of the House (e.g. court of law) or cannot be discriminated against for expressing his/her views in the House and its Committees.
• Freedom from Arrest: It is understood that no member shall be arrested in a civil case 40 days before and after the adjournment of the House (Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha) and also when the House is in session. It also means that no member can be arrested within the precincts of the Parliament without the permission of the House to which he/she belongs.
Exemption from attendance as witnesses:The members of Parliament also enjoy freedom from attendance as witnesses.
Privileges of Parliament:
Right to publish debates and proceedings:
•Though by convention, the Parliament does not prohibit the press to publish its proceedings, yet technically the House has every such right to forbid such publication.
•Again, while a member has the privilege of freedom of speech in Parliament, he has no right to publish it outside Parliament.
•Anyone violating this rule can be held responsible for any libellous matter it may contain under the common law rules.
Right to exclude strangers:
Each house of Parliament enjoys the right to exclude strangers (no-members or visitors) from the galleries at any time and to resolve to debate with closed doors.
Right to punish members and outsiders for breach of its privileges:
• In India, the Parliament has been given punitive powers to punish those who are adjudged guilty of contempt of the House.
•Such contempt can be committed by the members of any House or any outsider. When a member of the House is involved for parliamentary misbehaviour or commits contempt he can be expelled from the House.
Right to regulate the internal affairs of the House:
The House has the right to regulate its internal affairs. A member of the House is free to say whatever he likes subject only to the internal discipline of the House or the Committee concerned.A breach of privilege is a violation of any of the privileges of MPs/Parliament. Among other things, any action ‘casting reflections’ on MPs, parliament or its committees; could be considered breach of privilege. This may include publishing of news items, editorials or statements made in newspaper/magazine/TV interviews or in public speeches. There have been several such cases. In 1967, two people were held to be in contempt of Rajya Sabha, for having thrown leaflets from the visitors’ gallery. In 1983, one person was held in breach for shouting slogans and throwing slippers from the visitors’ gallery. The house can ensure attendance of the offending person.
The person can be given a warning and let go or be sent to prison as the case may be. In the case of throwing leaflets and chappal, the offending individuals were sentenced to simple imprisonment. In the 2007 case of breach of privilege against Ambassador Ronen Sen, the Lok Sabha Committee on privileges held that the phrase “headless chicken” was not used by Shri Sen in respect of MPs or politicians. No action was taken against him. In 2008, an editor of an Urdu weekly referred to the deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha as a “coward” attributing motives to a decision taken by him. The privileges committee held the editor guilty of breach of privilege. The committee instead of recommending punishment stated that, “it would be better if the House saves its own dignity by not giving undue importance to such irresponsible articles published with the sole intention of gaining cheap publicity.”
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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