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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 18 September, 2021

  • 12 Min Read

Disruption in the Parliament is the Contempt of the House

In a first by any Presiding Officer of the legislatures in the country and in the context of rising disruptions, Rajya Sabha Chairman Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu today unequivocally held that disruptions of proceedings amount to contempt of the House and disruptors can’t claim it as their privilege to do so.

Productivity of Rajya Sabha

  • Speaking on disruptions in the Parliament, Shri Naidu informed that the productivity of Rajya Sabha is being quantified since 1978 and during the first 19 years till 1996, the productivity of the House has been over 100% and has begun to decline since then.
  • While the House clocked annual productivity of over 100% during 16 of these 19 years, it was so only in two years in 1998 and 2009 during the next 24 years and not even once in the last 12 years.
  • The Chairman further said that the productivity of Rajya Sabha during 2004-14 has been about 78% and it declined to about 65% since then.
  • Of the 11 sessions that Shri Naidu presided over, four of them clocked low productivity of 6.80%, 27.30%, 28.90% and 29.55% and during the year 2018, the Rajya Sabha recorded the lowest ever productivity of 35.75% under the impact of disruptions, he stated.
  • During the last monsoon session (254th), the Rajya Sabha lost more than 70% of the scheduled time including over 76% of the valuable Question Hour time, the Chairman noted.

Misusing the Privileges of the MPs

  • The privileges granted to the Members are Freedom of Speech in the house, immunity from any action for anything said or vote given in the House or it’s committees and freedom from arrest and liability to court proceedings etc.
  • Chairman Shri Naidu said such privileges were available only in so far as they were necessary for the House to freely perform it’s functions.
  • Privileges are enabling rights of members to put across the views and voice the concerns of their constituents (people who elect the members) fearlessly.
  • These could, therefore, be termed as indirect rights of member’s constituents. It is this essence of privileges that needs to be understood”.
  • Citing the renowned British constitutional theorist Erskine May, Shri Naidu underlined that it is only for effective discharge of the collective functions of the House that the individual privileges are enjoyed by the members.
  • Stating that legislatures are meant for effectively articulating the concerns of the people and to find solutions through effective laws besides deliberating on issues of larger public concern and ensuring the accountability of the executive, Shri Naidu argued that this required functional legislatures and not disrupted ones. He contended that any disruption in violation of the Rules of the House and the scheme of Privileges that renders the House dysfunctional amounts to contempt of the House which is mandated to function on behalf of the people.

Consequences of Disruptions of House

  • They derail the scheduled business of the House, deprive other members willing and identified to participate in various proceedings of the day and delay the course of law making.
  • The socio-economic consequences of defective and delayed laws resulting from such disruptions are quite substantial.
  • In support of his contention that disruption amounts to contempt of the House, Shri Naidu recalled Erskine May and stressed that “Any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such result may be treated as contempt even though there is no precedent of offence”.

Conclusion

  • In conclusion, disruption of the proceedings is a certain negation of the spirit and intention behind the Rules of the House, the Code of Conduct, the Parliamentary Etiquette and the scheme of parliamentary privileges, all aimed at effective performance of individual members and the House collectively. Given the consequences, disruption of proceedings clearly amount to contempt of the House, by the logic of which, disruption can not be claimed as a privilege by the errant members”.

Source: PIB


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