Punjab Legislative Assembly

COMMITTEE OF PRIVILEGES

 

Each House of Legislature collectively, and its members individually, enjoy certain privileges i.e., certain rights and immunities without which the House and its members cannot discharge the functions entrusted to them by the Constitution. The object of these privileges is to safeguard the freedom, the authority and the dignity of the House, its Committees and Members. Where there is any question of an alleged breach of privilege, the matter is referred by the House to its Committee of Privileges for examination, investigation and report. At the commencement of the Assembly or from time to time, the Speaker nominates the Committee consisting of not more than 12 Members (Rule 233). Usually, the Committee is reconstituted each year alongwith other Committees of the House. In constituting the Committee, the Speaker takes into consideration the claims, interests and the strength of various parties and groups in the House so that the Committee is fully represented. The Deputy Speaker, when a Member of the Committee, functions as the Chairman of the Committee (Rule 184). The quorum to constitute a sitting of the Committee is FOUR (one-third).

FUNCTIONS

When leave to raise a question of privilege is granted by the House, the House refers it to the Committee for consideration and report, on a motion made either by the members who has raised the question of privilege or by any other member (Rule 257). In practice, the House usually refers all questions of privilege after the grant of leave, to the Committee and reserves its judegment until the report of the Committee is presented. Besides, the Speaker may also suo moto refer any question of privilege to the Committee for examination, investigation or report (Rule 262). In such cases, the Committee presents its report to the Speaker who may direct that the report be laid on the Table. Further action in the matter is taken in accordance with the decision of the House. It is the duty of the Committee to examine every question of privilege referred to it, determine with reference to the facts of each case whether a breach of privilege is involved and, if so, the nature of the breach, the circumstances leading to it, and make such recommendations as it may deem fit (Rule 235). Thus, the Committee may recommend some specific form of punishment to be awarded to the offenders. The Committee may also suggest the procedure that might be followed by the House in giving effect to the recommendation made by it. The Committee does not associate any person or body from outside, formally or informally, with its deliberations. For a proper examination of the question of privileges involved, the Committee may hear the member who raised the question of privilege in the House, or permit him to explain his case in a written statement. Where the breach of privilege involved is that of a member of the House, the Committee may afford him an opportunity to explain his case before the Committee in person. The Committee has the power to send for persons, papers and records (Rule 195). A witness may be summoned by an order signed by the Secretary to appear before the Committee and to produce such documents as may be required for the use of the Committee (Rule 194). It is the general practice for the Committee to give an opportunity to the person alleged to have committed a breach of privilege or contempt of the House, to submit his explanation to the Committee in writing, and also in person, if so desired by him or considered necessary by the Committee. All evidence before the Committee is taken on oath. (rule 18 of the Internal Working Rules). Where the charge of a breach of privilege or contempt of the House is based on some document, the Committee may ask for the production of the document in original. If any member desires to record a Minute of Dissent on any matter, he shall hand in his Minute to the Chairman (Rule 236(2)). The Committee has also made detailed rules as required under rule 204-A of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha (Punjab Legislative Assembly). These rules are called the "Internal Working of the Committee of Privileges Rules, 1975".