Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, who chairs the Parliamentary Standing Committee on science and technology, recently moved a privilege motion against the news channel Times Now.
- He passed the privilege motion for “falsified and mischievous” reporting of the proceedings of the panel’s meeting by news channel Times Now.
- Mr. Ramesh, in a letter to Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu, wrote that the agenda of the meeting was on “Vaccine Development for COVID-19” and “Genetic sequencing of coronavirus and its variants”.
- But, the channel falsely reported that the proceedings involved a discussion on the ‘PM CARES fund’ and that this resulted in ‘high drama’.
- Thus, this was patently false, and no such discussion or events ever took place.
What are Parliamentary Privileges?
- Parliamentary Privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament, individually and collectively, so that they can “effectively discharge their functions”.
- Article 105 of the Constitution expressly mentions two privileges, that is, freedom of speech in Parliament and right of publication of its proceedings.
- Apart from the privileges as specified in the Constitution, the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, provides for freedom from arrest and detention of members under civil process during the continuance of the meeting of the House or of a committee thereof and forty days before its commencement and forty days after its conclusion.
Breach of privilege:
When any of the above mentioned rights and immunities are disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament.
Then, 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.
What is the role of the speaker under such circumstances?
- The Speaker/RS chairperson 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.
- The Constitution also extends the parliamentary privileges to those persons who are entitled to speak and take part in the proceedings of a House of Parliament or any of its committees.
- These include the Attorney General of India.
- However, the parliamentary privileges do not extend to the President who is also an integral part of the Parliament. Article 361 of the Constitution provides for privileges for the President.