- Immunity refers to protection, and Parliamentary privileges refer to special rights enjoyed by the Parliament, its committees, and its members.
- Immunities and privileges are necessary in order to secure the independence, effective, and non-interrupted functioning of Parliament.
- The Constitution has also extended the Parliamentary privileges to those persons who are entitled to speak and take part in the proceedings of a House of Parliament or any of its committees. These include the Attorney General of India and Union Ministers.
- It must be clarified here that the Parliamentary privileges do not extend to the President even though he is considered as the part of Parliament.
Parliamentary privileges can be classified into two broad categories:
- Privileges enjoyed by each House of Parliament collectively (Collective Privileges)
- Privileges enjoyed by the members individually (Individual Privileges)
Collective Privileges: The privileges belonging to each House of Parliament collectively are
- The right to publish reports, debates, and proceedings and also the right to prohibit others from publishing the same. Under the freedom of Press, it can publish true reports of Parliamentary proceedings without prior permission of the House. But this right of Press is not applicable in case of a secret meeting of a House.
- Exclude strangers from its proceedings and hold secret meetings to discuss some important matters.
- Make rules to regulate its own procedure and the conduct of business and to adjudicate upon such matters.
- Punish members as well as outsiders for breach of privileges or contempt of Parliament through reprimand or imprisonment. Members can also be suspended or expelled from the Parliament.
- Right to receive immediate information of the arrest, detention, conviction, imprisonment, and release of a member.
- Institute enquiries and enforce attendance of a person.
- The Courts are prohibited to enquire into the proceedings of a House or its committees.
- 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: The privileges belonging to the members individually are
- No member shall be arrested during the session of Parliament, from 40 days before the beginning and till 40 days after the end of a session. This privilege is extended only in civil cases and not in criminal cases or preventive detention cases.
- Members have freedom of speech in Parliament. No member is liable to any proceedings in any court for anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or its committees. This freedom is subject to the provisions of the Constitution and to the rules and standing orders regulating the procedure of Parliament.
- When Parliament is in session, members are exempted from jury service. They can refuse to give evidence and appear as witness in a court.
Breach of Privilege and Contempt of the House
Breach of Privilege | Immunities and Parliamentary Privileges
- When an individual or authority disregards or attacks any of the privileges, rights, or immunities, either of the member individually or of the House in its collective capacity, the offence is termed as breach of privilege and is punishable by the House.
Contempt of the Parliament | Immunities and Parliamentary Privileges
- Any act, which obstructs a House of Parliament, its member, or its officer in performing their functions or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly to produce results against the dignity, authority and honour of the house is treated as contempt of the House.
- Contempt of House is punishable by the Parliament.
Sources of Parliamentary Privileges
The Constitution, under Article 105, exclusively mentions two privileges. These are
- Freedom of speech and vote to members of Parliament
- Right of publication of proceedings
- With regard to other privileges, it is provided that they are same as those enjoyed by the House of Commons in England, its committees, and its members until Parliament makes a law to regulate its privileges.
- There is a demand that Parliament should frame a law on immunities and privileges enjoyed by it.
- Parliament has not framed any law on this matter till date.
- It is alleged that Parliament has not drafted such a law because it would curtail the powers of Parliament.
- Moreover, such a law can be challenged in Judiciary, leading to further reduction in immunities and privileges enjoyed by the Parliament.
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