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An introduction to the provisions of Breach of privilege

Context

  • Editors of Hi Bangalore and Yelahanka Voice have been awarded one-year jail term and a fine of Rs 10,000 for libel.

The Issue

  • Karnataka assembly speaker K.B. Koliwad has sentenced Ravi Belagere of Hi Bangalore and Anil Raj of Yelahanka Voice for a year in jail for writing defamatory articles against legislators.
  • Hi Bangalore in the year 2014 and said to have ‘defamed’ Koliwad and another congress leader B.M. Nagaraju, and in 2016, Yelahanka Voice defamed BLP’s S.R. Vishwanath in one of their article.

Punishment rewarded in case of Breach of Privilege

  • The house can ensure attendance of the offending person. The person can be given a warning and let go or be sent to prison as the case may be.
  • In the case of throwing leaflets and chappal, the offending individuals were sentenced to simple imprisonment.

The Criticism

  • It is a thinly disguised mechanism to insulate elected representatives from criticism.
  • It is too often invoked for the ostensible reason of protecting the image of the House on the whole or its individual members.
  • Legislatures do not pursue an appropriate judicial remedy in their individual capacity.
  • Nature of legislative privileges is trying to take away the liberty of critics, thus restricting the freedom of speech and expression provided by the constitution of India under Article 19 (1) (a).
  • Legislatures mainly to protect the independence of the House stand behind the absence of codification. Doing so, the House gains the power to decide when and how breach of privilege occurs.
  • Legislators are in a position to clarify facts and refute misconceived criticism. There is no reason for them to seek imprisonment for contempt.
  • Even if it is conceded that the House has such a right, a moot question is whether the legislature, through its Committee of Privileges, should be a judge in its own cause.

Conclusion

  • Whether the legislature’s power to punish for breach of privilege extends to handing down a prison term is remains an open question. Has time come for the legislature to codify privileges and for the higher judiciary to lay down the limits of penal action for breach of privilege.
  • The Karnataka government must consider the public odium it would attract if it acted on the resolution. If the Chief Minister and the Speaker take the lead in getting the Assembly to rescind the resolution, that would better safeguard the dignity of the august House is what critics pointing.

Provisions on The Breach of Privilege

According to the Article 194 of the Indian Constitution, there are privileges provided to the state legislature, its members and committees and Article 105 does the same for Parliament and its members. Privileges such as freedom of speech in state legislature/Parliament, immunity to proceedings in court for anything said in the legislature/ Parliament, the House … Continue reading “Provisions on The Breach of Privilege”

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The Breach of Privilege: Brief History

No law has so far been enacted by Parliament (and state legislatures) regarding breach of privilege, and in the absence of any such law, the powers, privileges and immunities of the Houses of Parliament and state legislatures and of the members and the committees thereof continue in actual practice to be governed by the precedents … Continue reading “The Breach of Privilege: Brief History”

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Case History

In the 2007 case of breach of privilege against Ambassador Ronen Sen, the Lok Sabha Committee on privileges held that the phrase “headless chicken” was not used by Shri Sen in respect of MPs or politicians. No action was taken against him. In 2008, an editor of an Urdu weekly referred to the deputy chairman … Continue reading “Case History”

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Article 19 (1) (a)

    Article 19(1)(a) of Indian Constitution says that all citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of Speech and expression means the right to express one’s own convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other mode. It thus includes the expression of one’s idea … Continue reading “Article 19 (1) (a)”

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Freedom of Press

The fundamental right of the freedom of press implicit in the right the freedom of speech and expression, is essential for the political liberty and proper functioning of democracy. The Indian Press Commission says that “Democracy can thrive not only under the vigilant eye of legislature, but also under the care and guidance of public … Continue reading “Freedom of Press”

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Restriction on Freedom of Speech and Expression

Article 19 (2) contains the grounds on which restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression can be imposed – Security of State:Under Article 19(2) reasonable restrictions can be imposed on freedom of speech and expression in the interest of security of State. The term “security of state” refers only to serious and aggravated forms … Continue reading “Restriction on Freedom of Speech and Expression”

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