Parliamentary Privileges and Sovereignty of the Parliament

Q.  Which of the following is/are true?

1) Constitution of India does not mention Parliamentary Privileges specifically in any articles.
2) There may be contempt of the House without committing a breach of privilege.

- Published on 03 Mar 17

a. Only 1
b. Only 2
c. Both 1 and 2
d. Neither 1 nor 2

ANSWER: Only 2
  • Any act or omission which obstructs a House of Parliament, its member or its officer in the performance of their functions or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly to produce results against the dignity, authority and honor of the House is treated as contempt of the House.

  • Though the two phrases, ‘breach of privilege’ and ‘contempt of the House’ are used interchangeably, they have different implications.

  • Normally, a breach of privilege may amount to contempt of the House.

  • Contempt of the House, however, has wider implications.

  • There may be contempt of the House without specifically committing a breach of privilege.

  • Sources of Privileges -

  • Originally, the Constitution (Article 105) explicitly mentions two privileges, that is, freedom of speech in Parliament and right of publication of its proceedings.

  • With regard to other privileges, it provided that they were to be the same as those of the British House of Commons, its committees and its members on the date of its commencement (i.e., 26 January, 1950), until defined by Parliament.

  • The 44thAmendment Act of 1978 provided that the other privileges of each House of Parliament, its committees and its members are to be those which they had on the date of its commencement (i.e., 20 June, 1979), until defined by Parliament.

  • The amendment has made only verbal changes by dropping a direct reference to the British House of Commons, without making any change in the implication of the provision.

  • It should be noted here that the Parliament, till now, has not made any special law to exhaustively codify all the privileges.

  • They are based on five sources, namely,

    1. Constitutional provisions.

    2. Various laws made by Parliament.

    3. Rules of both the Houses.

    4. Parliamentary conventions.

    5. Judicial interpretations.

    Sovereignty of Parliament -

  • The doctrine of ‘sovereignty of Parliament’ is associated with the British Parliament.

  • Sovereignty means the supreme power within the State.

  • That supreme power in Great Britain lies with the Parliament.

  • The Indian Parliament is not a sovereign body in the similar senses there are ‘legal’ restrictions on its authority and jurisdiction.

  • The factors limiting the sovereignty of Indian Parliament are as follows -

    1. Written Constitution.

    2. Federal System of Government.

    3. Fundamental Rights.

    4. Judicial review.

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