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Parliament Part 11- Parliamentary Privileges and Sovereignty of Parliament

What are Parliamentary privileges? | Parliament Part 11- Parliamentary Privileges and Sovereignty of Parliament

  • Parliamentary privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament, individually and collectively, so that they can “effectively discharge their functions”.
  • Parliamentary privileges are defined in Article 105 of the Indian Constitution and those of State legislatures in Article 194.
  • When any of these rights and immunities are disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament.
  • Besides, Rule No 222 in Chapter 20 of the Lok Sabha Rule Book and correspondingly Rule 187 in Chapter 16 of the Rajya Sabha rulebook govern privilege.


Collective Privileges

The privileges belonging to each House of Parliament collectively are:

  • It has the right to publish its reports, debates and proceedings and also the right to prohibit others from publishing the same. The 44th Amendment Act of 1978 restored the freedom of the press to publish true reports of parliamentary proceedings without prior permission of the House. But this is not applicable in the case of a secret sitting of the House.
  • It can exclude strangers from its proceedings and hold secret sittings to discuss some important matters.
  • It can make rules to regulate its own procedure and the conduct of its business and to adjudicate upon such matters.
  • It can punish members as well as outsiders for breach of its privileges or its contempt by reprimand, admonition or imprisonment (also suspension or expulsion, in case of members).
  • It has the right to receive immediate information of the arrest, detention, conviction, imprisonment and release of a member.
  • It can institute inquiries and order the attendance of witnesses and send for relevant papers and records.
  • The courts are prohibited to inquire into the proceedings of a House or its committees.
  • No person (either a member or outsider) 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.

Individual Privileges | Parliament Part 11- Parliamentary Privileges and Sovereignty of Parliament

The privileges belonging to the members individually are:

  • They cannot be arrested during the session of Parliament and 40 days before the beginning and 40 days after the end of a session. This privilege is available only in civil cases and not in criminal cases or preventive detention cases.
  • They have freedom of speech in Parliament. No member is liable to any proceedings in any court for anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or its committees. This freedom is subject to the provisions of the Constitution and to the rules and standing orders regulating the procedure of
  • They are exempted from jury service. They can refuse to give evidence and appear as a witness in a case pending in a court when Parliament is in session.

What is called breach of Parliamentary Privileges?

  • If any person or officer violates the individual or collective privileges of a Member of Parliament, such as, disrespect, abuse, attack, etc., such acts are considered as breach of Parliamentary Privileges which is punishable by the house.
  • Thus, the above facts make it clear that Parliamentary Privileges in India have been enforced so that the respect of Parliament its members can be ensured.
  • But it is observed that after winning the election, these representatives do not respect the public while on the other hand they expect that public should give them due respect.
  • Apart from this, you may have noticed that Parliamentarians are often seen misbehaving with the officials and the general public. This is called misuse of parliamentary privileges.
  • Therefore, it is the need of the hour that if government want to maintain the dignity of the democracy then it should make appropriate changes in the parliamentary privileges because nobody can be superior to the general public.

Sovereignty Of Parliament

  • The doctrine of ‘sovereignty of Parliament’ is associated with the British Parliament.
  • Parliamentary sovereignty means supremacy of the legislative body i.e parliament over all other government institutions including executive and judicial bodies.
  • Sovereign legislature may change or repeal any previous legislation and is not bound by any written law like constitution.
  • In India there is no parliament sovereignty rather there is constitutional sovereignty.

Factors that limit the sovereignty of Indian Parliament

  • Written Constitution: In India Constitution is written which put limitations on all organs of the state. Although parliament can amend constitution but it cannot supersede the written document. In UK, as there is no written constitution, the Parliament possesses legislative sovereignty. So any law passed by it cannot be questioned before any court on such grounds.
  • Independent judiciary and Judicial review: Judiciary is independent and the guardian of the Constitution. It can declare any law or ordinance passed by the legislature void, if any of its provisions violate one or more of the constitutional provisions.
  • Limited amendment power: Parliament can amend most of the part of constitution but it cannot amend the ‘basic features of the constitution’. Further some amendments need special majority and states’ legislature resolution.
  • Federal structure: Although constitution says India as a union of states, India is a federal polity. Various federal provisions especially some special powers for schedule area limit parliament powers where many parliamentary laws are applicable only on presidential and governor consent.
  • Limit by Presidential vetoes: A bill cannot become law without presidential assent. President can practice various veto powers like pocket veto that act as limitation on parliament sovereignty.
  • Division of powers: Schedule 7 divide law making power between centre and state. Parliament cannot make laws on state list. Any law in state subject would require state’s consent through majority.
  • Bar on discussion of conduct of judges: Article 121 and 211 of Indian Constitution states that no discussion shall take place in the Legislature of a state or in the Parliament with respect to the conduct of any judge of the Supreme Court or of the High court in the discharge of his duties. Thus legislature have no power to discuss judges conduct.
  • Limited Doctrine of ‘Separation of Powers’:In India there is no strict application of doctrine of separation of powers. So if the legislature encroaches into the functions of the other organs, judiciary can prevent it to do so.



Indian Polity

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