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Article 105 of Constitution: The limits to free speech in Parliament

Published: 16th Feb, 2023

Context

Recently, in a letter to Rajya Sabha, the Congress President cited Article 105 of the Constitution that deals with the privileges and powers of parliamentarians, to protest against the expunction of parts of his speech.

About

What is Article 105 of the Constitution of India?

  • Article 105 pertains to the powers, privileges, etc, of Parliament, its members and committees.
  • Article 194, protects the privileges and powers of the houses of legislature, their members and committees in the states.
  • Simply put, Members of Parliament are exempted from any legal action for any statement made or act done in the course of their duties.
    • For example, a defamation suit cannot be filed for a statement made in the House.
  • This immunity extends to certain non-members as well, such as the Attorney General for India or a Minister who may not be a member but speaks in the House.
  • In cases where a Member oversteps or exceeds the contours of admissible free speech, the Speaker or the House itself will deal with it, as opposed to the court.

What are the rules for expunging a speech? 

  • The speech of MPs is subject to the discipline of the Rules of Parliament, “good sense” of its Members, and the control of proceedings by the Speaker.
  • These checks ensure that MPs cannot use “defamatory or indecent or undignified or unparliamentary words” inside the House.

Unparliamentary Words

  • ‘Unparliamentary Expressions’, a bulky volume of book has been published by the Lok Sabha secretariat.
  • The book lists words that are considered offensive and unparliamentary in most countries but also has words which are relatively harmless yet classified undignified. 

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