Define the Privileges or stop the Farce

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Verbal vomit of an unknown person, who says he is Abhijit Iyer Mitra, against SriJagannath and Konark as well as MLAs of Orissa, has landed him in jail as an under trial accused while he is facing a House Committee for breach of Privilege of Orissa Legislative Assembly.

Sans any prejudice to these acts of prosecution, the one issue I have discussed in calls for an open cogitation in this page too. That issue is the nefarious attempts of the supporters of the Chief Minister to make the founder of a rival regional party Mr.M.A.Kharabela Swain the object of their vitriol on imagined charges of his support to this man.

The mischief commenced with a TV Channel, founded by Mr. S.R.Patnaik, now a BJD Rajyasabha Member, asking Mr. Swain leading questions over phone as to how would he react to the action of the Assembly Privilege Committee against Iyer Mitra.

The trap succeeded.

Swain, a straightforward person of probity, stressed that there should be no privilege prosecution against the person, as, on records, he has begged apology for his wrongful observation and twits.
The pro-BJD social media activists immediately started zooming in, Swain was manhandled publicly and all sorts of obnoxious comments were hurled in social media at not only Swain, but also at whosoever disapproved the attack on him.

The wave of social media filth waned when I wondered on records if this so-called love for Oriya grandeur was engineered by the CMO to divert public attention from the Chief Minister’s conspiracy against our mother tongue sic passim Orissa Official Language Act (first and second) Amendments, 2018.

Now the question is: Whether any prosecution for alleged breach of an Assembly’s privilege, not defined by the Assembly, is democratically decent?

Our Law Makers have acted offensive against the people of this Republic by keeping them constantly under threat of punishment with the rod of privilege, without defining the term as yet.

The Constituent Assembly had preferred to rely upon the House of Commons of UK till representatives of the people of sovereign India define the same. H.V.Kamath whose amendment-proposal could not click, however, had cried, “Sir, my knowledge of the various constitutions is not as vast or as profound as that of Dr. Ambedkar, but relying on my meager knowledge of these constitutions, I venture to state that this is the first instance of its kind where reference is made in the Constitution of a free country to certain provisions obtaining in the Constitution of another State. I see no valid reason why this should be done. It may be that the rights and privileges which we are going to confer upon the members of Parliament of free India will be identical with, or more or less similar to, those enjoyed by the members of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. But, may I ask, Sir, in all humility, “Is it necessary or is it desirable when we are drafting our own Constitution that we should lay down explicitly in an article that the provisions as regards this matter will be like those of the House of Commons in England?”

Without going for codification of the privileges of the Parliament and Assembles, when in 1978, the issue was dealt with in the 44th amendment of the Constitution, Clause (3) of Art.105 and 194 addressed to privilege of the Parliament and the Assembles respectively was thus worded:

(3) In other respects, the powers, privileges and immunities of each House of Parliament, and of the members and the committees of each House, shall be such as may from time to time be defined by Parliament by law, and, until so defined shall be those of that House and of its members and committees immediately before the coming into force of Section 15 of the Constitution (Forty fourth Amendment) Act 1978.

What meaning does “that House” carry for a common man? Why this ambiguity was inserted through the amendment? And, why the privilege is not yet defined? Even if it is assumed that the meaning of “that House” is House of Commons in England, why our Legislatures – Central and Provincial – have not yet noted that privilege of “that House”, which is a foreign House, shall keep our people subjugated to the foreign practice “until” they make their privileges “defined”?

Is it helping our law makers to pose as rulers, whom people shall not dare to criticize in fear of privilege proceedings?

Has the House of Commons in England defined and updated its privileges? If yes, is it not incumbent upon our “Houses” to translate then in all Indian Languages and make our English ignorant people know their limitation in criticizing our law makers?

More importantly, is it not incumbent upon our law makers to save us from the ignominy of obeying dictums of a foreign country that had subjected us to tyranny and to free ourselves from the clutch of which, thousands of Indians including the youngest martyr Baji Raut of Orissa have sacrificed their lives and innumerable patriots have suffered in jails?

Our Parliament and State Assemblies must define their privileges or stop the farce.

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