Polity and Governance

Breach of Privilege

Introduction
•A breach of privilege motion was moved against Prime Minister and Defence Minister claiming that they had misled Parliament on the Rafale fighter issue,.
 
Constitution provisions
•The provisions for the breach of privilege is provided
     •under Art. 105 for Parliament, its members & committees and
     •under Art. 194 for State Legislature, its members & committees
 
Protection under Article 105 & Article 194
(1) There shall be freedom of speech in Parliament
(2) 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, and no person shall be so liable in respect of the publication by or under the authority of either House of Parliament of any report, paper, votes or proceedings
(3) 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 by law
(4) The provisions shall apply in relation to persons who by virtue of this constitution have the right to speak in, and otherwise to take part in the proceedings of, a House of Parliament or any committee thereof as they apply in relation to members of Parliament
 
Purpose of privilege 
•Protect freedom of speech and expression in the House.
•Avoiding litigation over matters that occur in these houses
•Protection against any libel through speeches, printing or publishing
•Ensuring functioning without undue influence, pressure or coercion
•Establish sovereignty of Parliament
 
Sources of privileges to MP and MLAs
i)  Constitutional provisions
ii)  Laws made by Parliament 
iii) Rules made by the houses
iv) Parliamentary conventions
v)  Judicial interpretations
 
Breach of privilege
•An MP or MLA enjoys complete freedom of expression in the House and in the committees of the House
•A case of breach of privilege is made out when anyone tries to obstruct or hinder the member in conducting his duties when in the House or in the committees.
•However, outside the Parliament, when the MP or MLA is part of an unlawful gathering, etc, then he is subject to the laws of the land, like any other citizens. 
•The punishment is left to the Parliament or State Legislatures 
 
What is the procedure?
•A notice is first issued to the person against whom the breach of privilege is made out, giving him/her an opportunity to be heard.
•On receiving the response, the authority or Speaker decides whether a case of privilege has at all arisen,
•If there are grounds for privilege being involved then the Speaker can either put it up before the House or send it to the privileges committee.
•The committee which enjoys quasi judicial powers then discusses and submits a report, which is placed on the floor of the House, to take a decision on it.
•If the House feels a breach of privilege has been committed, then the House can summon the person and admonish him or, in extreme cases, send him to prison.
 
Committee on Privileges
•A Standing committee is constituted in each house of the Parliament/state legislature.
•It consists of 15 members in Lok Sabha and 10 members in Rajya Sabha to be nominated by the Speaker and Chairman respectively
•It investigates the cases of breach of privilege and recommend appropriate action to the Speaker/Chairperson.



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