Corruption & Parliamentary Privileges

Corruption & Parliamentary Privileges

Parliament is responsible for the most important function i.e. formulating laws. Amending former laws to bring forth changes suitable to the present society require series of dedicated debates, discourse, deliberations and discussion. Similarly passing a new bill or act is not only a time-consuming process but also requires dedicated services of the members so that the law is suitable nationally. Therefore, certain free environment and rights and liberties is a necessity.

Honourable Supreme Court in the case of Raja Ram Pal vs Speaker, Lok Sabha & Ors passed an erudite judgment and specified the essence behind providing these privileges through the Constitution and also discussed the limits of judiciary in cases of similar subject matter. The Honourable Bench cited the views of renowned authors and jurists and firmly stated that the purpose of providing such privileges was only to provide enough impunity to the members so that they do not face undue hindrance while discharging their constitutionally specified duties. This was granted while keeping in mind the interest of the whole nation and hence these exemptions and privileges are basic and limited in nature. In cases of misuse and abuse, the parent body i.e. the Parliament holds the power to take actions against such abusers since the basic objective is to safeguard Parliament authority and dignity. This concept is taken from British Constitution and helps to uphold the supremacy of the Parliament.

Though it is agreed that granting privileges to the MLAs and MPs is necessary for the functioning of democracy in a democratic setup however it is essential that such special privilege only serves the purpose of providing necessary exemplary rights for smooth functioning of the legislator bodies. Therefore, they must be duly revised from time to time so that they do not create excessive overriding effects in conflicts of national importance. Moreover it is a necessity to punish or provide certain deterrence since disrupting or delaying the Parliament is also an undignified behaviour that delays the important functions of the House.

Corruption Charges and Conflict with Constitutionally Granted Privileges

First significant case that highlighted the issue of bribery and corruption for casting votes in favour of the decided, was the case P. V. Narasimha Rao v. State. In the debate of Lokpal Bill Late Arun Jaitley mentioned that corruption was perceived as a way of life and we should form laws in consonance with Article 105 for curbing it. The news and mention of scams always involves members of the parliament thus clearly implying that these deep rooted problem derives certain benefits from the privileges granted to Parliamentarians.

Benefits and privileges are granted to them so that they could perform their duties unhindered as proceeding could be initiated based on fabricated evidences and with malicious intent. Therefore, it is imperative that they are protected from such proceedings otherwise they could be widely used as a means to disrupt the members to reach the house for important discussions or important voting days. In Lalu Prasad case,of massive corruption SC relied on previous judgement of PV Narsimha case and adjudicated that since there were sufficient evidentiary grounds for proving corruption charges the petitioner could be prosecuted without the permission of the Parliament since it is the duty of the officers to request and seek permission of the Speaker before filing charge sheets.

In cases where it provable that the act has evidences and the act does not come under the purview of act of state or sovereign act then no civil or criminal immunity could stop any legal actions taken against the corrupt public servant- MP/MLA.

Immunity provisions mentioned in Article 105(2) for these members of the Parliament are a standard feature in modern democratic states and are deemed to be necessary to ensure that the powers of the three organs of the state are distributed and separated. Yet there is a fundamental requirement for accountability which clashes with undue eternal pressure. However, in the favour of spirit of democracy it is essential that measures merely beyond the Parliamentary committee are brought into place to curb corruption and scams. International bodies are demanding establishment of International Corruption Courts along with the wavering of immunities for corrupt members. This was also suggested by a national commission wherein they suggested that Article 105(2) should be amended to dis-include immunities in cases of corruption associated with their work while simultaneously providing courts to take cognizance after consultation with the speaker along with the intervention of media. Since best anti-corruption laws would be that involve the state as well as the society since giving bribe is also be one of the major reasons for widespread multi layered corruption.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Irregularities and arbitrariness are not the way in which any ideal law, rule or order is imposed. Law and order are ideally used to remove these irregularities. Similarly, when we analyse the article and provisions and the rules that assert the presence and effectiveness of Parliamentary Privilege we do come across numerous loopholes and fallacies which reforms and newer methods and rights could help reduce. It has been established above that speech without constraints is important for free expression especially when one such expression concerns the interest of hundreds. However, any expression that hinders the rights and interests of the rest of the population, which is in billions, is far more valuable. Hence, disrupting the proceedings of the Parliament to satisfy the emotions of their party members or to fuel a feud or to distract disrupt or just annoy the other members mostly the ruling party is an undignified and intolerable behaviour which should be vehemently condemned and strictly punishable. Debates, discourse and discussions are important for deliberations in the Parliament but delays due to over liberated rights granted to the members is not a part of democratic state and hence should be stopped via amendment or major reform in the constitutionally granted privilege. Moreover, indistinctness of certain terms of Article 105 is also not in favour of democracy since it connotes to varied interpretations which result in confusion and non-uniformity. Every new assembly and every new speaker will come up with different disciplinary perspectives which will widely change the conduct of the Parliament.

Judicial restrictions on the extent of this immunity limits the punitive actions hence also fails to address the larger issues of corruption and ethics, especially legislative ethics. Also, the opposition is seated to question the government in favour of the general public not in favour of private political parties or just ensuring that every single discussion and proceedings goes futile. We deal with large population, huge arrears of bills to be passed and such delays are in no way in favour of the interests of the citizens hence should be condemned in a stricter manner so that they do not imperil democratization. Proper parameters that are de-political should be put into place to check these privileges through means of well- defined regulations for a holistic reform. Moreover there should be a system of educating public and future parliamentarians about the need of proper ethics within the dignified houses while having a heated discussion.

These parliamentary privileges are granted to make the life of a member of both houses easier inside the Parliamentary premises. However, it is long due that certain life lessons of ethics, morals and cooperation while conflict, also be imparted to them via a major reform which ideally is -Codification of Parliamentary Privileges.