Listing the collective and individual privileges of the Members of Parliament

QuestionListing the collective and individual privileges of the Members of Parliament, discuss its importance.11 January 2022

Answer

Parliamentary privileges are basically such special rights which are enjoyed by each house collectively and all the members of the house individually. As such, these rights are an essential part of Parliament. The purpose of these rights is to confer certain rights and immunities to the Houses, Committees and Members of Parliament for the efficient and effective discharge of their duties. Articles 105 and 194 of the Constitution refer to the privileged immunities enjoyed by the Houses, Members and Committees of Parliament and State Legislatures respectively.

Thus, the essence of parliamentary privilege is to protect the dignity, independence and autonomy of Parliament. But this right does not absolve the Members of Parliament from their civil rights.

Classification of Privileges:

Parliamentary privileges can be divided into two broad categories. These are individual rights and collective rights.

  • Individual rights are exercised individually by the Parliament. Whereas collective rights are enjoyed by both the houses of the Parliament or the State Legislature.
  • Under the collective authority, there is a ban on the publication of the report of the House, other matters in debate proceedings etc.
  • The personal rights enjoyed by a member include immunity from arrest to members in civil matters during the session of the House, forty days before the commencement of the session and forty days after the end of the session, freedom of expression for the members in Parliament, etc.

Limitations:

  • Although parliamentary privileges exist as an essential part of Parliament. Nevertheless, the possibility of their misuse cannot be ruled out.
  • Sometimes it can be used when the media criticizes the MPs.
  • The law of breach of privilege empowers politicians to self-do justice in their own case. Thus, the person who violates is deprived of the right to a fair trial.
  • Further, an announcement or assurance made by a member in the House is not accepted as a breach of privilege or contempt of Parliament.
  • It is also likely to be used as an alternative to legal proceedings.

Significance:

  • It enables free and fair discussion by encouraging members to voluntarily present their views and express their views in the House without any fear.
  • These prevent the dissemination of discussions or premature publication of proceedings.
  • Immunity from proceedings in a Court of Law naturally culminates in the form of internal autonomy in respect of any statement said or made inside the House.
  • It prevents obstructing the performance of members’ parliamentary duties (by granting immunity from arrest).
  • Ensure that the presence of a member in the House shall be given precedence over all other obligations such as his/her becoming a jury/witness in a case.

Thus, these privileges are important for both the Houses as they uphold the rights, honor and dignity of the members and help the Members of Parliament in discharging their parliamentary responsibilities.

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