Rafale deal heats up in LS with Congress’s privilege motion against PM, Nirmala

The Congress stepped up pressure on the Modi government over the Rafale deal, as it submitted a notice to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan for a privilege motion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for allegedly misleading the House on the commercial value of the deal to buy Rafale fighter jets from France.

Parliamentary privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament, individually and collectively, so that they can “effectively discharge their functions”. When any of these rights and immunities are disregarded, the offense is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under the law of Parliament.

A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege. Each House also claims the right to punish as contempts actions which, while not breach of any specific privilege, are offenses against its authority and dignity.

Rule No 222 in Chapter 20 of the Lok Sabha Rule Book and correspondingly Rule 187 in Chapter 16 of the Rajya Sabha rulebook governs privilege. It says that a member may, with the consent of the Speaker or the Chairperson, raise a question involving a breach of privilege either of a member or of the House or of a committee thereof. The rules, however, mandate that any notice should be relating to an incident of recent occurrence and should need the intervention of the House. Notices have to be given before 10 am to the Speaker or the Chairperson.

The Speaker/RS chairperson is the first level of scrutiny of a privilege motion. The Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion himself or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament. If the Speaker/Chair gives consent under Rule 222, the member concerned is given an opportunity to make a short statement.

In the Lok Sabha, the Speaker nominates a committee of privileges consisting of 15 members as per respective party strengths. A report is then presented to the House for its consideration. The Speaker may permit a half-hour debate while considering the report. The Speaker may then pass final orders or direct that the report is tabled before the House.

A resolution may then be moved relating to the breach of privilege that has to be unanimously passed. In the Rajya Sabha, the deputy chairperson heads the committee of privileges, that consists of 10 members.

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