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Constitutional Law Project

Topic- Tej Kiran Jain v. N. Sanjeeva Reddy

(AIR 1970 SC 1873 )


Under ParLIAMEntary pRIVILEGES (Freedom of Speech in the Parliament)

Introduction
The term "parliamentary privilege" is essentially used to describe the law relating to the privileges or immunities of Parliament and includes its powers to punish for "contempt" or breach of privilege. The privileges, whether of Parliament itself as a collective body or of the individual members, are intended to enable them to carry out their constitutional functions of legislating, debate and enquiry effectively, independently and without interference or obstruction from any quarter. Since, India has these privileges enshrined in its Constitution, it would be appropriate to approach the topic with reference to the relevant constitutional provisions. The law on the subject in other countries is an important aid for understanding the limits and extent of the law of privileges.
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Article 105 of the Constitution relating to the "Powers, privileges and immunities of Parliament and its members" and Article 194 relating to the State Legislatures and their members contain certain enumerated privileges and powers while leaving room for a large number of uncodified and unenumerated privileges to continue. Reference to certain other provisions like Articles 118, 121, 122, 208, 211 and 361-A, which also have a bearing on the subject, are made at the appropriate 1 places. Article 105(1) guarantees freedom of speech in Parliament subject of course to the rules and Standing Orders regulating the procedure of Parliament. What makes Article 105(1) effective and much more than the right of every citizen to free speech guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a), is the immunity from the process of the courts in respect of anything said in the House. The privilege is available not only to the Members of Parliament but also, under Article 105(4) of the Constitution, to persons like the Attorney General of India or Ministers who are not members but have a right to speak in the House. The stage has been set for fearless participation in the debates in the House. In order to claim the immunity, what needs to be shown is only that Parliament was sitting and that its business was being transacted2

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http://www.ebc-india.com/lawyer/articles/2006_2_1.htm Last accessed on August 24,2013 at 10p.m Id

Facts
1) The appellants filed a suit for damages in respect of defamatory statements made by the respondents, who were members of Parliament, on the floor of the Lok Sabha during a calling attention motion. 2) The High Court dismissed the suit holding that no proceedings could be taken in a court of law in respect of what was said on the floor of Parliament in view of Art. 105(2) of the Constitution. However, it certified the case as fit for appeal to the Supreme Court under Art. 133 (1) (a) of the Constitution. 3) The appellants claim to be the admirers and followers of Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Goverdan Peeth, Puri. 4) In March, 1969 a World Hindu Religious Conference was held at Patna where the Shankaracharya took part and is reported to have observed that untouchability was in harmony with the tenets of Hinduism and that no law could stand in its way and to, have walked out when the National Anthem was played. 5) On April 2, 1969 Shri Narendra Kumar Salve, M.P. (Detul) moved a Calling Attention Motion in the Lok Sabha and gave particulars of the happening and cursed the Shankaracharya. 6) The appellants who hold the Shankaracharya in high esteem felt scandalised and brought the action for damages placing the damages at Rs. 26,000. 7) Notice of the lodgement of the appeal was issued to the respondents in due course but they have not appeared.

Issues
1) Was the discussion about Shankaracharya in calling attention motion illegal or irrelevant? 2) Was Shankaracharya scandalised and should he be paid damages of rupees 26000?

Arguments from the Appellants


1) The respondents gave themselves upto the use of language which was more common place than serious, more lax than dignified, more unparliamentary than sober and jokes and puns were bandied around the playful spree, and His Holiness Jagadguru Shankracharya Ananta Shri Vibushit Swami Shri Niranjan Deva Teertha of Goverdhan Peeth, Puri, was made to appear as a leperous (Sic) dog. The appellants who hold the Shankaracharya in high esteem felt scandalised and brought the action for damages placing the damages at Rs. 26,000. 2) Referring to an observation of this court that dealt with the provisions of Article 212 of the Constitution pointed out that the immunity under that Article was against an alleged irregularity of procedure but not against an illegality, and contended that the same principle should be applied here to determine whether what was said was outside the discussion on a Calling Attention Motion. According to him the immunity granted by the second clause of the one hundred and fifth article was to what was relevant to the business of Parliament and not to something which was utterly irrelevant. 3) Further, they attempted to base the analogy of an Irish case and another from Massachussetts reported in Mays Parliamentary Practice.

The Respondents were not present in the hearing of the Court.

Judgement
Supreme Court held that Article 105 (2) of Indian Constitution clearly states that no member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof and hence, the court has nothing to say in this matter and should have none. The appeal failed and the case was dismissed. Hence there shall he no order about

Analysis
Answering to the 1st issue of the case, the discussion about Shankaracharya in calling attention motion was not illegal or irrelevant because on April 2, 1969 Shri Narendra Kumar Salve, M. P. (Detul) moved a Calling Attention Motion in the Lok Sabha to discuss about Shankaracharya and give particulars of the happening of World Hindu Religious Conference. His behaviour in a World Hindu Religious Conference on March,1969 held at Patna was not acceptable in a country like India where there are lot of religious sentiments in people. The Shankaracharya took part in the conference and it is reported to have observed that untouchability was in harmony with the tenets of Hinduism and that no law could stand in its way and to, have walked out when the National Anthem was played. He had been hypo critic with his statement. The members of the Parliament in its proceedings has all right to talk about anyone and anything. They cannot be questioned on any basis. It has been clearly mentioned in the Article 105(2) of Indian Constitution that No member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof.
Answering to the 2nd issue of the case, Shankaracharya was not scandalised because of the Article 105 (2) and hence he should not be paid damages of Rs. 26000. The Supreme Court took the appropriate decision by clearly referring to the Article 105(2) of Indian Constitution.