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Privilege Motion in Parliament

Published: 10th Aug, 2023

Context

Recently, Rajya Sabha Chairman referred complaints related to the privilege of the House against Derek O’Brien and Raghav Chadha to the privileges committee.

About

What is Privilege Motion?

  • Parliamentary privileges are certain rights conferred to the Members of Parliament for conducting the business of the Parliament.
  • There is no codified list of the exact privileges, but it includes the right of free expression in the course of Parliamentary debates and Members of Parliament will not be liable for court proceedings for this.
  • If there is a belief that such a privilege has been breached, a motion can be raised by any member.
  • It can be admitted by the Chairman.
    • Then, they can then refer it to the Privileges Committee.

Provisions related to Privilges:

  • 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.
  • Rules say that a member may, with the consent of the Speaker or the Chairperson, raise a question involving a breach of privilege either of a member or of the House or a committee thereof.

How Privilege committee be formed?

  • The Chairman of Rajya Sabha can, from time to time, nominate such a Committee, consisting of ten members.
  • It will also have a Chairman appointed by the Rajya Sabha Chairman.
  • The right to raise a question of privilege is based on satisfying two conditions, namely:
    1. The question shall be restricted to a specific matter of recent occurrence, and
    2. The matter requires the intervention of the Council.
  • The Speaker has the power to make such decisions.
  • The Speaker/RS chairperson is the first level of scrutiny of a privilege motion.
  • Therefore, the Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion him or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament.

What is the role of Privilege committee?

  • The mandate of the committee is to examine such cases and “make such recommendations as it may deem fit”.
  • It can call the relevant people as part of its examination and look at related documents.
  • It has to then make a report and if the Council has not fixed any time for its presentation, the report shall be presented within one month of the date on which reference to the Committee was made.
  • A motion has to be passed for the consideration of the report and amendments can be suggested.
  • The Chairman or any member of the Committee or any other member can move that the Council agrees, disagrees, or agrees with amendments, with the recommendations contained in the report.

Parliamentary privileges:

  • These are special rights, immunities and exemptions enjoyed by the two Houses of Parliament, their committees and their members.
  • The Constitution also extends the parliamentary privileges to those persons who are entitled to speak and take part in the proceedings of a House of Parliament or any of its committees.
  • These include the Attorney General of India and Union ministers.

Privilege motion often rejected in Parliament:

  • Most of the cases of the privilege motion passed in the Parliament in the past have been rejected. Penal actions have been recommended only in a few, so far.
  • Some significant privilege motion cases:
    • In 1978, privilege motion was moved against Indira Gandhi and was expelled from the House.
    • In 1976, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy was expelled from the Rajya Sabha.

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