Committee of Privileges in Parliament

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Overview:

A breach of privilege notice against a Rajya Sabha member was recently referred to the Committee of Privileges for investigation by the Rajya Sabha Chairman.

What is parliamentary privilege? 

  • Parliamentary privilege refers to rights and immunities enjoyed by Parliament as an institution and MPs in their individual capacity, without which they cannot discharge their functions as entrusted upon them by the Constitution.
  • Are these parliamentary privileges defined under law? 
    • According to the Constitution, the powers, privileges and immunities of Parliament and MP's are to be defined by Parliament.
    • No law has so far been enacted in this respect. In the absence of any such law, it continues to be governed by British Parliamentary conventions.
  • What is breach of privilege? 
  • A breach of privilege is a violation of any of the privileges of MPs/Parliament.
  • Among other things, any action 'casting reflections' on MPs, parliament or its committees; could be considered breach of privilege.
  • This may include publishing of news items, editorials or statements made in newspaper/magazine/TV interviews or in public speeches

About Committee of Privileges:

  • This committee consists of 15 members in Lok Sabha ( 10 in case of Rajya Sabha) nominated by the Speaker (Chairman in case of Rajya Sabha).
  • In the Rajya Sabha, the deputy chairperson heads the committee of privileges.
  • Powers and Functions:
    • The committee examines every question involving a breach of privilege of the House or of the members or of any Committee thereof referred to it by the House or by the Speaker/Chairman
    • It also determines with reference to the facts of each case whether a breach of privilege is involved and makes suitable recommendations in its report.
    • It also states the procedure to be followed by the House in giving effect to its recommendations.
    • When a question of privilege is referred to the Committee by the House, the report of the Committee is presented to the House by the Chairman or, in his absence, by any member of the Committee.
    • Where a question of privilege is referred to the Committee by the Speaker, the report of the Committee is presented to the Speaker who may pass final orders thereon or direct that it be laid on the Table of the House.
    • The Speaker/Chairman may refer to the Committee any petition regarding the disqualification of a member on the ground of defection for making a preliminary inquiry and submitting a report to him.
    • The procedure to be followed by the Committee in these cases is so far as may be the same as in applicable to questions of breach of privilege.

 


Q1) Are parliamentary privileges defined under the Indian Constitution?

According to the Constitution, the powers, privileges and immunities of Parliament and MP's are to be defined by Parliament.  No law has so far been enacted in this respect. In the absence of any such law, it continues to be governed by British Parliamentary conventions.

Source: Privilege notice admitted against Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut for ‘chormandal’ remark