Updated: Aug 19, 2021
QUESTION | The issue of Parliamentary-privileges has been a bone of contention and conflict between the Parliament and the Judiciary. “Analyse this statement in the backdrop of decided cases.
Importance of this question | This question was asked in 2019 UPSC Law Optional Mains as question 1(d) / Section A / Paper 1 for 10 marks as compulsory question.
How to answer this question ?
· Read the question and understand it – it talk about parliamentary privileges and demands you to discuss how this privilege has been an issue between court and parliament by quoting cases.
· Thus point out the privileges
· Identify cases where court gives an contentious opinion on privileges
· Combine everything and give and answer with excellent connectivity
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ANSWER TO THE QUESTION ASKED | Article 105 of the Indian Constitution provides parliamentary privileges and Article 194 provides privileges to state legislature. According to the Oxford dictionary the term ‘privilege’ refers to the “special right, advantage or immunity to the particular person. It is a special benefit or honor”.
Parliamentary privilege means that the members of Parliament are exempted from any civil and criminal liability for the statements made during session of the house and enjoy various other privileges and immunities.
Privileges under Article 105
a) Members of parliament enjoy freedom of speech but it is subject to provisions of Constitution regulating procedure of Parliament.
The freedom of speech as a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) is not absolute. This right is subject to reasonable restrictions under clause (2) of Article 19. But freedom of speech under Article 105 is different from that under Article 19 as it is independent of restrictions provided under Article 19(2) only in relation to what is said by the members within the house.
b) Clause 2 of Article 105 says that members of parliament shall not be liable in the court proceedings for anything they have said or any vote given in the parliament or committee thereof nor they shall be liable for publication by or under the authority of any report, votes or proceedings.
c) Members are immune from arrest in any civil cases 40 days before and after the adjournment of the houses and during the house is in session.
d) Members of the parliament cannot be arrested from the limits of parliament without the permission of the house to which that member belongs.
e) They are immune from appearing as witness in a court and has complete liberty to attend the house for performing their duties without any interference from the court.
In Algaapural R. Mohanraj v. Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, it was held that the principle of the natural justice shall not be violated by the privilege committee.
In P.V. Narashima Rao v. State, the Supreme Court denied immunity to one of the member of Parliament from prosecution for bribery as he did not cast a vote, although all members involved in bribery case were immune as they have casted their vote and thus protected by parliamentary privilege as clause 2 to Article 105 provides that’ 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 the Parliament.’
Re under Article 143, AIR 1965 SC 745
FACTS | In this case, one Keshava Singh who was not member of any house of legislature was held guilty for contempt of the house and thus sentenced to 7 days imprisonment. His advocate moved habeas corpus petition challenging the sentence of house and contended that his client was not given an opportunity of being heard.
HELD | The Allahabad High Court released him on bail pending the decision of the case. In the mean while, the assembly passed a resolution the Judges of High Court which released him on bail and Keshava Singh and his advocate committed contempt of house and they may be taken into custody of the court.
· Then Judges and the advocate moved a separate petition under Article 226 that resolution of assembly amounts to contempt of the court.
· The matter was referred by President to the Supreme Court under Article 143 that whether legislature is the only judge of its privileges and whether it has authority to punish any person for its contempt. Whether High Court has committed contempt of the house.
SUPREME COURT’S VERDICT | The Supreme Court held that Judges can pass an order to release a person who is illegally detained and such order does not amount to contempt of the House. It also held that House of legislature is not a court of record.