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Privilege Motion

Context:

An MP from Telangana submitted a Privilege Motion against PM regarding his remarks over the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh.

Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. What is a privilege motion?  
  2. Where do these rules find mention?
  3. What is the authority of the Speaker/ Chairperson vis-à-vis privilege motion?
  4. What if the Speaker/Chairperson refers the motion to a parliamentary committee?
  5. Have privilege motions been passed in Parliament earlier?
  6. Constitutional Provisions

What is a privilege motion?  

  • Members of Parliament (MPs) enjoy certain parliamentary privileges which are bestowed on them collectively and individually so that they can discharge their duties and functions effectively.
  • In the case that any of these immunities or rights are disregarded by any MP, the act is regarded as a breach of privilege and is a punishable offence under Laws of Parliament.
  • When a breach of privilege is found, then an MP can move a privilege motion against those being held guilty of breach.
  • Both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha reserve the right to punish any action of contempt (not necessarily breach of privilege) which is against its authority and dignity.

Where do these rules find mention?

  • The rules governing privilege motion are mentioned as Rule 222 in Chapter 20 of the Lok Sabha Rule Book and as Rule 187 in Chapter 16 of the Rajya Sabha Rule Book.
  • According to the rules, an MP may raise a question of breach of privilege with the Speaker or the Chairperson, notices for which have to be sent to them before 10am.
  • The breach of privilege could be of another MP, a committee or of the House. However, the rules mandate the notice should be regarding an incident which has occurred recently and that it needs the intervention of the House.

What is the authority of the Speaker/ Chairperson vis-à-vis privilege motion?

The first level of scrutiny that a privilege motion has to go through is that of the Speaker, in case the motion is moved in the Lok Sabha, and that of the Chairperson when a motion is moved in the Rajya Sabha.

The Speaker/Chairperson may decide on the privilege motion at their own discretion or they may refer it to a parliamentary committee.

If the Speaker/Chairperson admits the motion, then the concerned member is given an opportunity to explain themselves by making a short statement.

What if the Speaker/Chairperson refers the motion to a parliamentary committee?

  • In the Lok Sabha, the Speaker nominates a committee of privileges which consists of 15 members proportionate to the strengths of various political parties in the Lower House of Parliament.
  • They prepare a report which is then presented before the House for its consideration.
  • The Speaker may allow a half-an-hour debate on the report before she/he passed the final orders.
  • The Speaker can also direct that the report be tabled before the House and a resolution may be unanimously passed on the breach of privilege.
  • The process is similar in the Upper House, except that the privilege committee consists of 10 members and is headed by the deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.

Have privilege motions been passed in Parliament earlier?

A number of privilege motions have been passed in Parliament earlier, with most of them being rejected and very few demanding penal actions.

  • The most significant privilege motion was passed against Indira Gandhi in 1978.
  • The then Home Minister Charan Singh had moved a resolution of breach of privilege against her on the basis of observations made by Justice Shah Commission, which investigated the excesses during the Emergency.
  • Mrs Gandhi, who had just won the Lok Sabha elections from Chikmagalur, was expelled from the House.
  • In another case, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy was expelled from Rajya Sabha in 1976 for bringing disgrace to Parliament through his interviews to foreign publications.
  • In 1961, editor of ‘Blitz’ RK Karanjia was indicted with gross breach of privilege after the publication put out an article that publicly castigated Congress veteran JB Kripalani. Karanjia was reprimanded in Lok Sabha and the gallery pass of his correspondent was annulled.

Constitutional Provisions

  • The powers, privileges and immunities of either House of the Indian Parliament and of its Members and their committees are laid down in Article 105 of the Constitution.
  • While, the powers, privileges and immunities of the State Legislatures, their Members and their committees are described in Article 194.

-Source: The Hindu

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