Privileges and immunity no shield for criminal acts in House, says Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has held that the right to free speech of lawmakers on the Parliament or Assembly floors cannot use as a shield against criminal acts in house.
Observations of the Court
• Freedom of speech is not a license for Acts of vandalism.
• It was not the intention of the drafters of the Constitution to extend the interpretation of ‘freedom of speech’ to include criminal acts by placing them under a veil of protest.
• Law-makers cannot unleash violence, run riot in Parliament or a Legislative Assembly and then claim parliamentary privilege and immunity from criminal prosecution.
• Boundaries of lawful behavior apply to all, including MPs/MLAs who hold responsible elected office in the Legislative Assembly.
True essence of Privileges as per the court:
• The purpose of bestowing privileges and immunities to elected members of the legislature was to enable them to perform their “essential functions” without hindrance, fear or favour.
• The ‘essential’ function of the House is collective deliberation and decision-making.
• Parliamentary privileges are not a mark of status which makes legislators stand on an unequal pedestal.
• Parliamentary Privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament and Member of legislative assembly, individually and collectively, so that they can “effectively discharge their functions”.
• Article 105 of the Constitution expressly mentions two privileges, that is, freedom of speech in Parliament and right of publication of its proceedings.
• Apart from the privileges as specified in the Constitution, the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, provides for freedom from arrest and detention of members under civil process during the continuance of the meeting of the House or of a committee thereof and forty days before its commencement and forty days after its conclusion.