Parliamentary privileges

Parliamentary privileges

This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “Parliamentary privileges”. The topic “Parliamentary privileges” has relevance in the “Indian Polity” section of the UPSC CSE exam.

For Prelims:

What are Parliamentary Privileges?

For Mains:

GS2: Parliament and State Legislatures, Structure, Functioning, Conduct of Business, Powers & Privileges, Issues Arising out of these


Why in the news?

The Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha raised objections when his microphone was turned off during the session, considering it a breach of his Parliamentary privilege.


Parliamentary Privileges

Parliament and its members have certain rights and immunities, collectively known as parliamentary privilege, that allow them to perform their duties efficiently and effectively without any hindrance.

It is defined as follows in Erskine May’s Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament: “Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively and by Members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions, and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals. Thus privilege, though part of the law of the land, is to a certain extent an exemption from the general law.”


These powers, privileges, and immunities are addressed in the Constitution through Articles 105 and 194.

What are the main privileges? 

Freedom of Speech

  • Under Article 105, the Houses of Parliament, along with their members and committees, enjoy certain powers and privileges. These include:
    • Freedom of speech in Parliament, subject to constitutional provisions and procedural regulations.
    • Members of Parliament are immune from legal proceedings for anything said or voted in Parliament or its committees. The same immunity applies to the publication of authorised reports, papers, votes, or proceedings.
    • The specific powers, privileges, and immunities of each House, its members, and committees are defined by Parliament through legislation. Until such laws are enacted, the existing powers and privileges continue as before the Constitution (Forty-Fourth Amendment) Act, 1978.
    • The provisions mentioned above also apply to individuals who have the right to speak or participate in the proceedings of a House of Parliament or its committees as per the constitution.
  • If a member or minister makes a statement in the House that another member believes to be untrue or incorrect, it does not constitute a breach of privilege. But Rule 353 of the Lok Sabha mandates that an MP provide advance notice of an allegation before the relevant minister can investigate it.
  • Similarly, Article 194 outlines the powers, privileges, and immunities of State legislatures and their members and committees.
  • Article 121 of the Constitution restricts members from discussing the conduct of judges of the Supreme Court and High Court. 
  • According to Article 122, the validity of any parliamentary proceeding cannot be questioned in court based on alleged irregularities of procedure.


Protection from arrests

  • MPs are protected from arrest in civil cases 40 days before and after a session or committee meeting under Section 135A of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908. 
    • This privilege applies only to civil cases, and MPs do not have immunity in criminal cases, whether during the session or otherwise. 
  • However, Parliament must be promptly informed about the arrest, detention, conviction, imprisonment, and release of a member.
  • Furthermore, members have immunity from arrest and legal process within the precincts of the House without prior permission from the Chairman or Speaker.


Codification of Privileges 

As of now, there is no specific legislation passed by either Parliament or State legislatures defining the powers, privileges, and immunities of the Houses, their members, and committees. Instead, these immunities are currently governed by precedents based on British parliamentary conventions.


Breach of privilege

  • A “breach of privilege” occurs when an individual or authority disregards or undermines the parliamentary privilege of a member or the House. 
  • This offence is punishable. Actions such as disobeying legitimate orders, making libellous statements about the House, its members, committees, or officers also qualify as breaches of privilege, according to the Rajya Sabha booklet on privileges.


Contempt of the House

  • “Breach of privilege” should not be confused with “contempt of the House,” which is defined as any act or omission that obstructs or hinders the functioning of either House of Parliament or obstructs any member or officer in carrying out their duties. 
  • Examples of contempt include speeches or writings that criticize the House or its members, question the impartiality of the Chair, or publish expunged proceedings.


Process to raise a question of privilege

  • Parliament is the sole authority to determine if there has been a breach of privilege or contempt of the House; no court has this power.
  • A member of the House can raise a question about a breach of privilege with the consent of the Chairman or Speaker. If consent is given, the matter can be considered by the House, or it may be referred to the Committee of Privileges.
  • The Chairman also has the authority to refer, on his own, any question of privilege to the Committee for examination, investigation, and report. 
  • Alternatively, the Chairman can personally investigate a breach of privilege matter without involving the Committee and inform the House of the findings, thereby closing the matter, as per the Rajya Sabha rulebook.
  • Only one question about a breach of privilege can be raised during a sitting, and the question must be limited to a specific recent occurrence.


Committee of Privileges 

The committee’s role is semi-judicial, and it deals with cases of breach of privileges of the House and its members. It recommends suitable actions in response to such breaches. The Lok Sabha committee comprises 15 members, and the Rajya Sabha committee has 10 members.


Punishment for a breach of privilege

  • The House has the authority to decide punishments for those found guilty of breach of privileges or contempt. Punishments can range from reprimand, warning, to imprisonment. 
  • However, the period of imprisonment for contempt is limited to the duration of the House session. If a Member of Parliament (MP) is found guilty, they can either be suspended from the House or expelled.



Parliamentary privilege breached, says Congress chief Kharge – The Hindu 

Explained | Understanding parliamentary privilege and what amounts of its breach – The Hindu 

Yojna daily current affairs eng med 31st July 2023


Q1. With reference to Parliamentary privilege, consider the following statements: 

  1. Article 105 of the Constitution deals with the powers, privileges, and immunities of State legislatures and their members and committees. 
  2. Members of Parliament are immune from legal proceedings for anything said or voted in Parliament or its committees. 
  3. According to Article 121 of the Constitution, members of Parliament are allowed to discuss the conduct of judges of the Supreme Court and High Court. 

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 2 only 

(d) None 

Answer: (c) 

Q2. Consider the following:

  1. MPs have immunity from arrest in both civil and criminal cases during the session and otherwise.
  2. Only the Supreme Court can question the validity of any parliamentary proceeding based on alleged irregularities of procedure. 
  3. Members have immunity from arrest and legal process within the precincts of the House without prior permission from the Chairman or Speaker.

How many of the abovementioned statement/s is/are NOT correct ?

(a) Only one 

(b) Only two 

(c) All three 

(d) None 

Answer: (a)

Q3. What are parliamentary privileges? Discuss the need for codification of such privileges.

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