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Article 105 of Constitution: The limits to free speech in Parliament, and what Supreme Court has ruled

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Parliament — Powers & Privileges and Issues Arising out of these

 

Source: IE

 Context: Some opposition leaders are protesting the removal of parts of their speech on the motion of thanks on the President’s address during the current session of Parliament.

Debate on Parliamentary privileges – The principle found a place in the GoI Act 1919
Article 105 of the Indian ConstitutionRules of Lok Sabha and Rajya SabhaException and apex court rulings
●        It deals with the powers, and privileges of the Houses of Parliament (collective), its members (individual) and committees. It has the following provisions –

●        There shall be freedom of speech in Parliament

●        MPs are exempted from any legal action for any statement made or act done in the course of their duties in Parliament.

●        This immunity extends to certain non-members as well – the Attorney General of India or a Minister who may not be an MP but speaks in the House.

●        This article guarantees that MPs can carry out their duties without interruption or fear, upholds the dignity and authority of the Parliament and supports its democratic operation.

●        Instead of the court, the Speaker of the House will deal with instances where a Member goes beyond the bounds of permissible free expression.

●        The two Houses have identical rules, with one exception.

●        In RS, MPs cannot make a personal charge against a Member.

●        The implementation of the rule book is in the hands of the Chairman of RS and the Speaker of LS.

●        The rules of procedure give the two presiding officers discretion in removing words from the recorded proceedings of the House which are “defamatory or indecent or unparliamentary or undignified”.

●        The LS Secretariat has brought out a volume of ‘Unparliamentary Expressions’.

●        This discretion is required because MPs have constitutional protection from legal proceedings.

 

●        Exception: In accordance with Article 121 of the Indian Constitution, no judge’s conduct may be discussed in Parliament unless it is part of a motion that asks the President to remove the judge.

●        SC’s rulings:

○        Members will be allowed to take part in parliamentary debates without fear according to Article 105, which also offers the most protection against civil and criminal prosecutions.

○        But such immunity must be on their speech or vote in Parliament.

 

Concerns:

  • A disconnect between the speeches in the parliamentary record and the publicly available version online.
  • It also means that every individual (including MPs) who shared the speech as was delivered by an MP on the floor of the House is in breach of the privilege of Parliament.

 

Conclusion: The Parliament is the “platform to fix the accountability of the Executive” and criticism of the government amounts neither to an allegation against an individual Member nor to an attack on the dignity of the House/s.

 

Insta Links:

Privilege of MPs does not extend to criminal cases, Rajya Sabha Chairman

 

Mains Links: 

Q. “Once a speaker, Always a speaker’! Do you think the practice should be adopted to impart objectivity to the office of the Speaker of Lok Sabha? What could be its implications for the robust functioning of parliamentary business in India? (UPSC 2020)

 

Prelims Links: UPSC 2017

One of the implications of equality in society is the absence of

    1. Privileges
    2. Restraints
    3. Competition
    4. Ideology

 

Ans: 1