London, Jan 4 (UNI) Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee has said parliamentary privileges were an integral part of the Constitution, and, therefore, ''they belong to what is known as the Fundamental Law''.
Speaking on the ''Parliamentary Privileges and the Rights of Reply'' at the Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth here yesterday, he said privileges of Parliament did not place a member on a footing different from that of an ordinary citizen in the matter of the application of laws.
''The only purpose and justification for these privileges is that elected representatives should be enabled to discharge their responsibilities and duties to the people effectively and efficiently without any fear, favour, obstruction and hindrance,'' he said.
On a question whether the judiciary can interfere in the matters of parliamentary prvileges, Mr Chatterjee said the Legislature is the sole authority to judge as to whether or not there has been a breach of privilege in a particular case.
He said he had referred the issue of codification of parliamentary privileges and related matters for the consideration of the Committee of Privileges.
Talking about the concept of separation of powers, Mr Chatterjee said the Indian Constitution clearly defines the respective jurisdiction and mutual relationship among the different organs of the state in intent, purpose and area of activities. However, the Legislature has been accorded a pre-eminent position in our constitutional and political setup.
Regarding judicial overreach, he said it was criticised by some of the eminent members of the legal fraternity who felt that in the name of judicial activism, the judiciary was tending to upset the fine constitutional balance which envisaged harmonious relations among the organs of State. Each organ of the State has separate areas of functioning.
Discussing the right of reply, the Lok Sabha Speaker said though the rules of procedure did not make provisions for giving opportunity to the person who is alleged to have committed an act of contempt for being heard before proceedings were finalised against him or her, in practice, in India ''we do allow, following the basic principles of natural justice, such persons to make the requisite submissions in their defence, before the Committee of Privileges.'' UNI XC KAS SK RS1814