MPs have no immunity in criminal cases during session: Naidu

Updated on Aug 06, 2022 12:35 AM IST

MPs do not enjoy any immunity from arrest in criminal cases when the House is in session and cannot avoid summons issued by law enforcement agencies, Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu said on Friday.

M Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu. (AFP)
M Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu. (AFP)
By, New Delhi

Members of Parliament (MPs) do not enjoy any immunity from arrest in criminal cases when the House is in session and cannot avoid summons issued by law enforcement agencies, Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu said on Friday.

Naidu’s statement came a day after leader of opposition in the House, Mallikarjun Kharge, slammed Enforcement Directorate (ED)’s summons to him in a money laundering case linked to the National Herald newspaper right in the middle of the monsoon session.

His remarks also came amid an uproar by Congress members in the House on Friday over alleged misuse of central agencies against opposition leaders.

As the Rajya Sabha assembled for the morning session and Naidu proceeded with the scheduled business of laying of listed papers on the table, more than 10 Congress members trooped into the Well of the House, alleging that Kharge was “insulted” through the ED summons issued during the working hours of Parliament.

The protests prompted the Chair to adjourn the House within minutes for half an hour.

After the House reconvened at 11.30 am, Naidu said MPs are “not on a different footing than a common citizen”.

He said there is a wrong notion among MPs that they have a privilege from action by agencies while Parliament is in session.

Under Article 105 of the Constitution, MPs enjoy certain privileges so they can perform their duties without any hindrances, the chairman said.

One of the privileges is that an MP cannot be arrested in a civil case 40 days before the commencement of the session or committee meeting and 40 days thereafter, Naidu explained, adding that this privilege is already incorporated under Section 135A of Civil Procedure Court.

“However, in criminal matters, Members of Parliament are not on a different footing than a common citizen. That means Members of Parliament do not enjoy any immunity from being arrested in a criminal case during the session or otherwise,” he clarified.

The Rajya Sabha chairman also cited past observations in this regard and Supreme Court rulings and reiterated that no member of the House should avoid appearing before any investigating agency if he is summoned, by citing reasons of the House duty.

“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.

“As lawmakers, it is our bounden duty to respect the law and legal procedures..,” he added.

Congress members Thursday had described the ED summons to Kharge as a ploy to scuttle its presence in the Upper House. The party claimed that Kharge, who deposed before the ED for more than six hours, was the first leader of opposition who was summoned and interrogated by the agency.

Speaking in the Upper House, Kharge said even though the Parliament session was underway, ED had asked him to appear for interrogation in the National Herald case. “I want to follow the law… But is it appropriate to summon me at this time, in the middle of Parliament session?” he said.

Reacting to Kharge’s allegations, Leader of the House, Piyush Goyal said the government does not interfere with the law enforcement authorities and autonomous bodies.

Senior Congress MP Digvijaya Singh said Kharge was present for questioning till 9:30 in the night.

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Friday, August 19, 2022
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