What is the Committee of Privileges in Parliament?

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The Supreme Court recently stayed the proceedings of the Lok Sabha Privilege committee against the Chief Secretary, Director General of Police and three other officials of the State of West Bengal.

What is the meaning of Parliamentary Privileges?

  • Each House of Parliament and its Committees collectively and members of each House individually enjoy certain rights, privileges, and immunities without which they cannot perform their functions efficiently and effectively.
  • The object of parliamentary privilege is to safeguard the freedom, authority and dignity of Parliament.
  • They are enjoyed by individual members, because the House cannot perform its functions without unimpeded use of the services of its members and by each House collectively for the protection of its members and the vindication of its own authority and dignity.
  • But they are available to individual members only insofar as they are necessary for the House to perform its functions freely without any let or hindrance.
  • They do not exempt the members from the obligations to the society which apply to other citizens.
  • When any of these rights and immunities, both of the members, individually, and of the assembly in its collective capacity, are disregarded or denied by any individual or authority, the offence is called a breach of privilege, and is punishable under the law of Parliament.
  • Articles 105 and 194 of the Constitution deal with the powers, privileges, and immunities of Members of Parliament/State Legislatures, and their House, Members, and Committees.
  • Each House also claims the right to punish actions which, while not breaches of any specific privilege, are offences against its authority or dignity, such as disobedience to its legitimate commands or libels upon itself, its officers, or its members. Such actions, though called ‘breaches of privilege’, are aptly distinguished as ‘contempts’.

About Committee of Privileges in Parliament

  • This committee consists of 15 members in Lok Sabha (10 in the case of Rajya Sabha) nominated by the Speaker (Chairman in the case of Rajya Sabha).
  • In the Rajya Sabha, the deputy chairperson heads the committee of privileges.
  • Powers and Functions:
    • o 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. 
    • o 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.
    • o It also states the procedure to be followed by the House in giving effect to its recommendations.
    • o 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.
    • o 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.
    • o 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.
    • o The procedure to be followed by the Committee in these cases is, so far as may be, the same as that applicable to questions of breach of privilege.

Q1) What are Parliamentary Committees?

Parliamentary Committee means a committee which is appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker and which works under the direction of the Speaker and presents its report to the House or to the Speaker and the Secretariat for which is provided by the Lok Sabha Secretariat. 2. By their nature, Parliamentary Committees are of two kinds: Standing Committees and Ad hoc Committees. 

Source: Supreme Court Stays Lok Sabha Privileges Committee Proceedings Against West Bengal Officials On BJP MP's Complaint Over Sandeshkhali Protes