Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu said on Friday, that members have a wrong notion that they have a privilege from action by investigating agencies, while the session is on.
Congress has been protesting against the alleged misuse of agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Income Tax department (IT) by the government to frame political rivals. A day ago, Congress members forced adjournments in the Upper House when Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said he had received a summon from ED to appear before the agency even while the House was in session.
Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi too raised the issue of arrest of member Sanjay Raut by ED saying the Chairman should have been apprised.
On Friday too, protests by Congress members on the issue saw an adjournment of half-an-hour.
As the House assembled on Friday, Mr. Naidu said, “Going by what has happened in the last few days, I want to clarify one thing that there is a wrong notion among the Members that they have a privilege from action by agencies while the Session is on.”
All precedents examined
He said he has examined all the precedents and under Article 105 of the Constitution, Members of Parliament enjoy certain privileges so that they can perform their parliamentary duties without any hindrance.
“One of the privileges is that a Member of Parliament cannot be arrested in a civil case, 40 days before the commencement of the session or Committee meeting, and 40 days thereafter. This privilege is already incorporated under Section 135A of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908.
“However, in criminal matters, Members of Parliament are not on a different footing than a common citizen. It means that a Member of Parliament does not enjoy any immunity from being arrested in a criminal case, during the session or otherwise,” he said.
He added there have been a number of rulings by Presiding Officers. He recounted a ruling given in 1966 by Dr. Zakir Hussain. It was said, “Members of Parliament do enjoy certain privileges so that they can perform their duties. One such privilege is freedom from arrest when the Parliament is in session. This privilege of freedom from arrest is limited only to civil cases, and has not been allowed to interfere in the administration of criminal proceedings.”
He asked the members to recall an observation made earlier by him where he said, “No member should avoid appearing before any investigating agency when she or he is called upon to do so by citing reason of house duty. As law makers, it is our bounden duty to respect the law and legal procedures. It applies to all, in all cases, because you can only inform that the House is in Session, seeking further date but you cannot avoid the enforcement agencies or the law enforcing agencies’ summons or notices. This has to be taken note by all.”
He said in the K. Anandan Nambiar case, the Supreme Court held that the true constitutional position is that so far as the valid order of detention is concerned, a Member of Parliament can claim no special status higher than that of an ordinary citizen, and is as much liable to be arrested, detained or questioned, even during the Session.
The Supreme Court in a recent case, State of Kerala Vs. K. Ajith and Others, observed, that “privileges and immunities are not gateways to claim exemptions from the general law of the land, particularly as in this case, the criminal law which governs the action of every citizen.”