Q. Enumerate important privileges enjoyed by each House of Parliament collectively and its members individually and also discuss their significance.
Parliamentary privilege is the sum of certain rights and immunities enjoyed by each House collectively and by members of each House individually, without which they may not be able to discharge their functions effectively, and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals.
Indian constitution under Article 105 empowers Parliament to codify parliamentary privileges. However, no such laws have been brought yet and those privileges available to the house, members and its committees available before the commencement of the constitution are being followed till date.
Privileges of the House collectively:
- Right to publish debates and proceedings and the right to restrain publication by others. However true reports of parliamentary proceedings can be published by press.
- Right to exclude strangers from its proceedings and hold secret sittings.
- Right to regulate internal affairs of the House and to decide matters arising within its walls:
- Regulate its own procedure and conduct of business and to adjudicate upon such matters.
- No person 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.
- The courts are prohibited to inquire into the proceedings of a House or its committees. House receives immediate information of the arrest, detention, conviction, imprisonment and release of its Member.
- Right to punish members and outsiders for breach of its privileges by reprimand, admonition or imprisonment (also suspension or expulsion in case of members).
Privileges enjoyed by the members individually:
- Complete Freedom of speech for anything said or any vote given by him/her in Parliament or its committees.
- Freedom from arrest in civil cases during the session of parliament and 40 days before the beginning and 40 days after the end of a session.
- Freedom to refuse to provide evidence or be a witness in a case pending in a court when parliament is in session.
- Enables free and fair discussion by enabling the members to speak out their mind and expressing their views in the House without any fear.
- Prevents willful misrepresentation of debates or premature publication of proceedings.
- Internal autonomy serves as a natural corollary of the immunity from proceedings in a court of law in respect of anything said or done inside the House.
- Prevents obstruction to members from attending their parliamentary duty (in case of arrest).
- Ensures that the attendance of a member in the House takes precedence over all other obligations such as being a jury/witness to a case.
Thus, these privileges are important for both the Houses to maintain their authority, dignity and honour and support its members in the discharge of their parliamentary responsibilities.