PRIVILEGE MOTION IN THE HOUSE

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Days after female MPs petitioned the Election Commission to take action against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his “rape in India” remark at an election rally in Jharkhand, the Congress has moved a privilege motion against Union Minister Smriti Irani for allegedly “twisting” his statement and “misleading” Parliament with her comments.

WHAT IS A PRIVILEGE MOTION?

A privilege motion is a notice by any member of either the state legislature or Parliament against anyone who is accused of breach of privilege. Parliamentary privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by MPs, MLAs and MLCs, individually and collectively, so that they can effectively discharge their duties.

When any of these rights and immunities is disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under the law of Parliament or the state legislature. Each House also claims the right to punish as contempt actions which, while not breach of any specific privilege, are offences against its authority and dignity.

In 1961, Blitz editor R.K. Karanjia was held guilty of breach of privilege of the Lok Sabha. Blitz had published an article that lampooned veteran leader J.B. Kripalani. Karanjia was summoned to the Lok Sabha and reprimanded, while the Lok Sabha gallery pass of his correspondent, R.K. Raghavan, was cancelled.

 

WHO CAN MOVE THE MOTION?

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. Each House also claims the right to punish as contempt actions which, while not breach of any specific privilege, are offences against its authority and dignity.

 

WHAT IS THE SPEAKER'S ROLE?

The Speaker / Rajya Sabha chairperson is the first level of scrutiny of a privilege motion. The Speaker/chairperson can decide on the privilege motion himself/herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament. If the Speaker/chairperson gives consent under Rule 222, the member concerned is given an opportunity to make a short statement.

 

WHAT IS THE PRIVILEGES COMMITTEE? 

* In the Lok Sabha, the Speaker nominates a committee of privileges consisting of 15 members as per respective party strengths. A report is then presented to the House for its consideration. The Speaker may permit a half-hour debate while considering the report. The Speaker may then pass final orders or direct that the report be tabled before the House.

* A resolution may then be moved relating to the breach of privilege that has to be unanimously passed.

* In the Rajya Sabha, the deputy chairperson heads the committee of privileges, which consists of 10 members.