Privilege motion – The Core IAS

Privilege motion

What is a privilege motion?

  • The two rules relate to the concept of parliamentary privilege, which are certain rights conferred to the Members of Parliament for conducting the business of the Parliament. There is no codified list of the exact privileges, but it includes the right of free expression in the course of Parliamentary debates and Members of Parliament will not be liable for court proceedings for this.
  • If there is a belief that such a privilege has been breached, a motion can be raised by any member. It can be admitted by the Chairman. They can then refer it to the Privileges Committee. The Chairman can, from time to time, nominate such a Committee, consisting of ten members. It will also have a Chairman appointed by the Rajya Sabha Chairman.
  • The right to raise a question of privilege is based on satisfying two conditions, namely: (i) the question shall be restricted to a specific matter of recent occurrence, and (ii) the matter requires the intervention of the Council.
    Similar provisions exist in Lok Sabha with the Speaker having the power to make such decisions. The Speaker/RS chairperson is the first level of scrutiny of a privilege motion. Therefore, the Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion himself or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament.

What action can the privileges committee take?

  • The mandate of the committee is to examine such cases and “make such recommendations as it may deem fit”. It can call the relevant people as part of its examination and look at related documents. It has to then make a report and if the Council has not fixed any time for its presentation, the report shall be presented within one month of the date on which reference to the Committee was made.
  • A motion has to be passed for the consideration of the report and amendments can be suggested. The Chairman or any member of the Committee or any other member can move that the Council agrees, disagrees, or agrees with amendments, with the recommendations contained in the report.

Are privilege notices rejected often?

  • A large number of notices are rejected, with penal action recommended in only a few cases.
  • The most significant case was in 1978 when Indira Gandhi, who had just won the Lok Sabha elections from Chikmaglur, was expelled from the House. Then home minister Charan Singh moved a resolution of breach of privilege against her following observations made by the Justice Shah Commission, which probed excesses during the Emergency.
  • It was the culmination of a year-long investigation by such a committee in the Lok Sabha. 
  • Another case was the expulsion of Subramanian Swamy from the Rajya Sabha in 1976. Swamy was charged with bringing disrepute to Parliament through his activities through interviews in foreign publications that were construed as “anti-India propaganda”. 
  • On December 23, 2005, 11 “tainted” MPs, who were caught in a sting over the cash for query scandal, were expelled from the House.