Essay on the Powers and Privileges of the Houses of Parliament



Article 105 of the Constitution provides for the powers, privileges etc. of the Houses of Parliament and of the members and committees thereof. 'Privilege' means a special or exceptional right or freedom or an immunity enjoyed by a particular class of persons or some individuals.

The privileges are granted with a view to maintaining the independence of action and the dignity of the position of the Houses of Parliament, their committees and members and to enable them to function without any let or hindrance.

The more important of the privileges, namely, freedom of speech in Parliament and immunity of members from any proceedings in courts in respect of anything said or any vote given by them in Parliament, are specified in Article 105 of the Constitution:

1. Subject to the provisions of the Constitution and to the rules and standing orders regulating the procedure of Parliament, there shall be freedom of speech in Parliament.

2. Clauses (2) and (3) of the article provide that no member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof, and no person shall be so liable in respect of the publication by or under the authority of either House of Parliament of any report, paper, votes or proceeding.

3. In other respects, the powers, privileges and immunities of each House of Parliament, and of the members and the committees of each House, shall be such as may from time to time be defined by Parliament by law, and, until, so defined, shall be those of that House and of its members and committees immediately before the coming into force of Section 15 of the Constitution (44th Amendment Act, 1978).

4. The provisions of clauses (1), (2) and (3) shall apply in relation to persons who by virtue of this Constitution have the right to speak in, and otherwise to take part in the proceedings of a House of Parliament or any committee thereof as they apply in relation to members of Parliament.

The most important of parliamentary privileges is that of freedom of speech while performing parliamentary duties. Article 19 also give a citizen the right of free speech but Articles 105 and 194 lay special emphasis on the right of free speech of members of the legislatures.

Under Article 19, the right of free speech is subject to reasonable restrictions, for instance, the law of libel. An ordinary person who speaks something libelous is liable to be proceeded against but a member of parliament speaking in the House or in one of its committees is immune from any attack on the ground that his speech was libelous or defamatory.

The Constitution provides, therefore, that no action can be taken against a member of parliament in any court or before any authority other than parliament in respect of anything said or a vote given by him in Houses of Parliament or any committee thereof.

Codification of Privileges: Article 105(3) of the Constitution stipulates that, apart from the privileges mentioned in the Constitution itself, Parliament may, from time to time, define its privileges by law.