Home > Parliament > Parliamentary Privilege FAQs

Parliamentary Privilege FAQs

September 1st, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

We wrote an FAQ on Parliamentary Privilege for IBN Live. See http://ibnlive.in.com/news/what-puri-bedi-are-guilty-of-parl-privilege-faqs/179977-37.html

The full text is reproduced below.

Several MPs have given breach of privilege notices against actor Om Puri and ex-policewoman Kiran Bedi for using “derogatory and defamatory” language against Members of Parliament. In light of this, we explain the concept of breach of privilege and contempt of Parliament.

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.

Have there been earlier cases of breach of privilege?

There have been several such cases. In 1967, two people were held to be in contempt of Rajya Sabha, for having thrown leaflets from the visitors’ gallery.

In 1983, one person was held in breach for shouting slogans and throwing chappals from the visitors’ gallery.

What is the punishment in case of breach of privilege or contempt of the House?

The house can ensure attendance of the offending person. The person can be given a warning and let go or be sent to prison as the case may be.

In the case of throwing leaflets and chappal, the offending individuals were sentenced to simple imprisonment.

In the 2007 case of breach of privilege against Ambassador Ronen Sen, the Lok Sabha Committee on privileges held that the phrase “headless chicken” was not used by Shri Sen in respect of MPs or politicians. No action was taken against him.

In 2008, an editor of an Urdu weekly referred to the deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha as a “coward” attributing motives to a decision taken by him. The privileges committee held the editor guilty of breach of privilege. The committee instead of recommending punishment stated that, “it would be better if the House saves its own dignity by not giving undue importance to such irresponsible articles published with the sole intention of gaining cheap publicity.”

  1. September 2nd, 2011 at 18:43 | #1

    Hi,
    I think it is absolutely required to have a regulaor for Real estate and Education like TRAI. Because these two sectors have become a tool to harash people . Ithink the delay is because the politicians also get their share out of the easy income they get from the money looted by builders. Can any responsible political party initiate this ??

  2. September 4th, 2011 at 18:11 | #2

    I am interested in obtaining the complete list of incidences of breach of privilege of both the houses of Indian Parliament.
    I am also interested in the details of such incidences as also what happened in all the cases.
    Eagerly waiting to hear through e-mail reply.
    Thanks.
    Dr. Jyoti Prakash

  3. K.Ramakrishnan
    September 5th, 2011 at 13:12 | #4

    There is a factual error in the FAQ. The person charged with breach of privilege for the “headless chickens” remark was Shashi Tharoor and not Ronen Sen

  4. Prasanna
    September 5th, 2011 at 14:45 | #6

    If all these things are there why MPs behave in indecent manner ? or it is like we will behave the manner we want but you dont speak a word..

  5. Nitin
    May 7th, 2012 at 23:11 | #7

    What’s the jail term for breach of privilege. Is it till the end of the current session of the house or the entire year?

  1. September 5th, 2014 at 13:12 | #1
*