No Replies to SC or HCs: Maharashtra
- 17 Dec 2020
- 5 min read
Why in News
Recently, both Houses of the Maharashtra State Legislature have passed proposals stating that they will not take cognizance of or reply to any notice sent by the High Court (HC) or the Supreme Court (SC) in the Breach of Privilege Motion against a TV editor and anchor.
- A Breach of Privilege Motion was moved in the State Assembly against the TV anchor, accused of using “derogatory language” and “making baseless remarks” against the Chief Minister of the State and “frequently insulting” Ministers and MPs during TV debates.
- The anchor filed a petition challenging the Breach of Privilege Motion in the SC.
- The assistant secretary of the Assembly questioned this move as well as producing “confidential” communications from the Speaker and the House Privileges Committee.
- The SC then issued a contempt notice to the assistant secretary of the Assembly and also held that it might be “necessary in all probability to serve the Speaker” to know his version in matter.
- Current Scenario and State Assembly’s Stand:
- The House Speaker initiated the motion of the Treasury benches and cited Article 194 of the Constitution, which lays down the powers and privileges of the Houses of Legislatures, and Article 212, which pertains to courts not inquiring into proceedings of the legislature.
- The proposals held that replying to such notices could mean accepting that the judiciary can keep a check on the legislature and would be inconsistent with the Basic Structure of the Constitution.
- The proposals were passed unanimously, which stated that the Speaker and Deputy Speaker would not respond to any notice or summons issued by the SC.
- The Legislative Council also passed the proposal unanimously and stated that no cognizance will be taken of any notice or summons issued by the HC or SC.
- Politicians have noted that the notice was in exception to the language used in the letter and has not encroached in any way on the rights of the legislature to legislate. If the legislature passes such a motion, it will set a wrong precedent.
- Parliamentary Affairs Minister has held that the proposal was limited to upholding the esteem of the Speaker’s chair and ensuring that the presiding authority is safeguarded from judicial scrutiny in matters of legislation.
- It is concerned with the breach of parliamentary privileges by a minister.
- Breach of Privileges:
- Parliamentary Privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament, individually and collectively, so that they can “effectively discharge their functions”.
- When any of these rights and immunities are disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament.
- A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege.
- Role of the Speaker/Chair:
- The Speaker/Chair is the first level of scrutiny of a privilege motion.
- The Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion himself or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament. If the Speaker/Chair gives consent under relevant rules, the member concerned is given an opportunity to make a short statement.
- Rules Governing Privilege:
- Rule 222 in Chapter 20 of the Lok Sabha Rule Book and correspondingly Rule 187 in Chapter 16 of the Rajya Sabha Rule Book governs 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.