• Congress moves privilege motion against Prime Minister
  • Parliamentary privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament, individually and collectively.
  • Without these they cannot discharge their functions efficiently and effectively.
  • When any of these rights and immunities are disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament.
  • A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege.
  • Each House also claims the right to punish as contempt actions which, while not breach of any specific privilege, are offences against its authority and dignity.

Parliamentary privilege involves:

  • the right of a member to speak freely in the House.
  • immunity to a member from any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by her/him in Parliament or on any of its committees.
  • exemption from proceedings in any court in respect of the publication by or under the authority of either House of Parliament of any report, paper, etc.
  • courts are prohibited from inquiring into its proceedings.
  • freedom from arrest of members in civil cases during the continuance of the session of the House and 40 days before its commencement and 40 days after its conclusion.
  • This freedom from arrest does not cover preventive arrest or detention under statutory authority by executive order and in criminal cases

What is breach of privilege?

  • Action by any individual or body to disregard or attack any of the privileges, rights and immunities either of the members individually or of the House in its collective capacity is called a breach of privilege and is punishable by the House.
  • It is the House itself that decides as to what constitutes a breach of privilege.
  • The penal jurisdiction of the House in this regard covers its members as well as strangers.
  • Besides breach of privilege, a House can also take up contempt proceedings in case of an offence against the authority or dignity of the House, such as disobedience to its legitimate orders or libels upon itself, its members or officers.
  • If found guilty of breach of privilege or contempt of the House, a person can either be punished by imprisonment, or receive an admonition or reprimand.

Two other punishments may also be awarded to the members for contempt:

  1. suspension from the House
  2. expulsion from the House

What is privilege motion?

  • An MP has to obtain the consent of the presiding officer to raise a question involving a breach of privilege or contempt.
  • That MP has to give notice in writing to the Secretary-General before the commencement of the sitting.
  • No more than one question of privilege is allowed to be raised in the same sitting.
  • Once notice is received, the Speaker may either give or withhold consent for raising the question of privilege in the House.
  • If consent is granted, the MP who has given notice has to ask for the leave of the House to raise the question of privilege, upon which at least 25 members of the House have to support its introduction.
  • Once admitted, the House may either take up the matter or may refer it to the Committee of Privileges. 

What percentage of privilege notices are rejected?

  • A large number of notices are rejected, with penal action recommended in only a few instances:
  • In 1978 then home minister Charan Singh moved a resolution of breach of privilege against Indira Gandhi following observations made by the Justice Shah Commission which probed excesses during the Emergency.
  • She was expelled from the house.
  • Another case was expulsion of Subramanian Swamy from the Rajya Sabha in 1976.
  • Swamy was charged with bringing disrepute to Parliament by his activities through interviews in foreign publications that were construed as anti-India propaganda.

The privileges committee

Lok Sabha:

In the Lok Sabha, the Speaker nominates a committee of privileges consisting of 15 members as per respective party strengths.

Rajya Sabha:

In the Rajya Sabha, the deputy chairperson heads the committee of privileges that consists of 10 members.


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