Privileges and immunities of Parliament and its Members

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Parliamentary privilege  is a legal immunity enjoyed by members of certain legislatures, in which legislators are granted protection against civil or criminal liability for actions done or statements made in the course of their legislative duties. The Presiding Officer i.e. Speaker in case of Lok Sabha and Chairman in case of Rajya Sabha, is the custodian of the rights and privileges of the House, its Committees and Members.

Article 105 of the Constitution of India which provides for the powers, privileges and immunities of the Houses of Parliament and of the Members and the Committee thereof reads as follows:—

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution and to the rules and standing orders regulating the procedure of Parliament, 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 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, and until so defined, shall be those of that House and of its members and committees immediately before the coming into force of section 15 of the Constitution (Forty-fourth Amendment) Act, 1978.

(4) The provisions of clauses (1), (2) and (3) 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.

Some of the more important privileges of each House of Parliament and of its Members and Committees are as follows:

(i) Freedom of Speech in Parliament [of Article 105(1) of the Constitution].

(ii) Immunity to a Member from any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any Committee thereof [of Article 105(2) of the Constitution].

(iii) Immunity to a person from proceedings in any court in respect of the publication by or under the authority of either House of Parliament of any report, paper, votes or proceedings [of Article 105(2) of the Constitution].

(iv) Prohibition on the courts to inquire into proceedings of Parliament [of Article 122 of the Constitution].

(v) Freedom from arrest of members of civil cases during the continuance of the Session of the House and forty days before its commencement and forty days after its conclusion (of Section 135 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

(vi) Right of the House to receive immediate information of the arrest, detention, conviction, imprisonment and release of Member (of Rules 222A and 222B of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Rajya Sabha).

(vii) Prohibition of arrest and service of legal process within the precincts of the House without obtaining the permission of the Chairman/Speaker.

(viii) Prohibition of disclosure of the proceedings or decision of a secret sitting of the House.

(ix) Members or officers of the House cannot give evidence or produce documents in courts of law, relating to the proceedings of the House without the permission of the House (of First Report of Committee of Privileges of Rajya Sabha presented to the House on the 1st May, 1958).

(x) Members or officers of the House cannot attend as a witness before the other House or a Committee thereof or before a House of State Legislature or a Committee thereof without the permission of the House and theycannot be compelled to do so without their consent (of Sixth Report of Committee of Privileges of Second Lok Sabha, adopted by Lok Sabha on the 17th December, 1958 and Thirty-Third Report of the Committee of Privileges of Rajya Sabha, adopted by the House on 30th March, 1993).

(xi) All Parliamentary Committees are empowered to call for persons, papers and records relevant for the purposes of the inquiry by a Committee. A witness may be summoned by a Parliamentary Committee who may be required to produce such documents as are required for the use of a Committee.

(xii) The evidence tendered before a Parliamentary Committee and its report and proceedings cannot be disclosed or published by anyone until these have been laid on the Table of the House.

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