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Supreme Court Defines what PRIVILEGE for Legislators
Mar 01, 2014

Privileges granted to legislators are only meant to help Parliament and state assemblies function smoothly and cannot be used by them outside the legislatures, the Supreme Court has ruled. The important judgement will have a bearing on matters of privilege raised by Members of Parliament (MPs) and legislative assemblies (MLAs), particularly over police or legal action taken against them.

Members often raise any police action or alleged misbehaviour by officials as matters of privilege in the legislature. Presiding officers then refer the matter to the Privileges Committee which studies and suggests actions.

But, a Bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam  said in their ruling, Privileges do not extend to the activities undertaken outside the House on which the legislative provisions would apply without any differentiation.

The apex court’s judgement came on a petition filed by the Lokayukta in Madhya Pradesh against a decision of the Speaker of the state legislature to initiate action against the anti-corruption body alleging breach of privilege.

The Lokayukta had registered a case against the assembly secretary and some other officials for irregularities in construction works in the Assembly premises. The Speaker then sent notices to the Lokyukta saying it had breached the privileges of the Assembly officials.

The Apex Court further said, “The laws apply equally and there is no privilege which prohibits action of registration of a case by an authority which has been empowered by the legislature to investigate the cases relating to corruption and bring the offenders to book...the law does not make any differentiation and applies to all with equal vigour.” 

The order pointed out that rulings by various presiding officers have held that an assault on or misbehaviour with a member unconnected with his parliamentary work or discourtesy by police officers are not matters of privilege and such complaints should be referred by members to the ministries directly.

The court made clear that privileges are available only insofar as they are necessary in order that House may freely perform its functions. It added that no official in any assembly or Parliament has privilege.


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