(1) A discussion took place in the Lok Sabha on April 2, 1969 about certain remarks alleged to have been made by Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Puri regarding untouchability. Shri Tej Kiran Jain and five other plaintiffs have filed the present suit for recovery of Rs. 26,000.00 as damages against Shri N. Sanjiva Reddy, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, defendant No. 1, Shri Narendra Kumar Salve, defendant No. 2, Shri B. Shankaranand, defendant No. 3, Shri S. M. Banerrjee, defendant No. 4 and Shri Y. B. Chavan, defendant No. 5, Members of Lok Sabha on the allegation that the plaintiffs are the admirers and followers of Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Puri. It is alleged that during the course of the above discussion certain remarks were made by the defendants which were defamatory and calculated to lower in public estimation Jagadguru Shankaracharya. The plaintiffs, accordingly, claimed a decree for recovery of Rs. 26,000.00 as damages from the defendants.
(2) During the pendency of the suit, an application under Order 7 Rule 11 and Order 27-A of the Code of Civil Procedure read with Article 105 of the Constitution was filed on behalf of the Union of India praying that the plaint might be rejected under Order 7 Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure as the present suit was nto maintainable in view of the provisions of Article 105 of the Constitution. Prayer was also made that the Union of India might be added as a party and that notice be issued to the Attorney-General of India. When the case came up before Prakash Narain, J. on July 30, 1969 the learned Judge observed that the matter was of considerable importance as to the interpretation of Constitution. He directed that a notice be issued to the Attorney-General. He also referred the matter to the Chief Justice for constituting a Bench of two or more Judges for disposal of the contentions raised. It is in these circumstances that the case has been posted for hearing before the Full Bench of this Court.
(3) We have heard Mr Lekhi on behalf of the plaintiffs and are of the view that the plaint is liable to be rejected under Order 7 Rule 11 clause (d) of the code of Civil Procedure according to which the plaint shall be rejected where the suit appears from the statement in the plaint to be barred by any law. Perusal of the plaint goes to show that the defendants are being proceeded against by the plaintiffs because of what was stated by them in the Lok Sabha on April 2, 1969. According to clause (2) of Article 105 of the Constitution "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 no person shall be so liable in respect of the publication by or under the authority of either House of Parliament of any report, paper, votes or proceedings." Plain reading of the above provision goes to show that as regards anything said by a member of Parliament in the Parliament or any committee thereof the Constitution has guaranteed ful protection and provided complete immunity against any proceedings in a court of law. It is significant that while clause (1) of Article 105 starts with the words "subject to the provisions of the Constitution", there is no such limitation so far as clause (2) of Article 105 is concerned. Mr. Lekhi, on behalf of the plaintiffs, has tried to canvass the proposition that what is protected by clause (2) of Article 105 is something which is germane to the matter before the House. It is contended that so far as other utterances are concerned they are nto to be be used by the above clause. In our opinion, this contention is devoid of force because, as observed earlier, the protection given by the above clause is to anything said in Parliament. The words "anything said" are of the widest amplitude and it is nto permissible to read any limitation therein. The object of the provision Obviously was to secure absolute freedom in discussion in parliament and to alloy any apprehension of a legal proceeding in a court of law in respect of anything said in Parliament by a member thereof. It is nto disputed that the impugned remarks were made in Parliament while it was in a regular Session. Clause (2) of Article 105 of the Constitution was dealt with by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in the Special Reference No-1 of 1964 . Gajendragadkar,
C. J., speaking for the majority, observed:
"HAVING conferred freedom of speech on the legislators, clause (2) emphasises the fact that the said freedom is intended to be absolute and unfettered. Similar freedom is guaranteed to the legislators in respect of the votes they may give in the Legislature or any committee thereof. In other words, even if a legislator exercises his right of freedom of speech in violation, say, of Article 211, he would nto be liable for any action in any court. Similarly, if the legislator by his speech or vote, is alleged to have violated any of the fundamental rights guranteed by Part Iii of the Constitution in the Legislative Assembly, he would nto be answerable for the said contravention in any court. If the impugned speech amounts to libel or becomes actionable or indictable under any other provision of the law immunity has been conferred on him from any action in any court by this clause. He may be answerable to the House for such a speech and the Speaker may take appropriate action against him in respect of it; but that is another matter. It is plain that the Constitution-makers attached so much importance to the necessity of absolute freedom in debates within the legislative chambers that they though it necessary to confer complete immunity on the legislators from any action in any court in respect of their speeches in the legislative chambers in the wide terms prescribed by clause (2). Thus, clause (1) confers freedom of speech on the legislators within the legislative chamber and clause (2) makes it plain that the freedom is literally absolute and unfettered."
(4) Mr. Lekhi points out that the words used by their Lordships in the course of the above observations were "freedom in debates." in our opinion it is difficult to infer from the above words that the remarks which are protected must necessarily be made in the course of a long speech. Every remark made by a member of the Parliament is fully protected.
(5) Reference has also been made by Mr. Lekhi to the rules of practice in the Parliaments of other countries. In our opinion, it would have been necessary to refer to those rules if our Constitution had been silent on the point. As an express provision has been made in clause (2) of Article 105 of the Constitution giving complete immunity to the members of the Parliament for anything said by them during the Session of Parliament, no help can be derived from the practice prevailing in other countries.
(6) We have given the matter our consideration and are of the view that the present suit is barred by the provisions of clause (2) of Article 105 of the Constitution. We, therefore, reject the plaint.
S.K. Kapur, J.
7. I agree
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Hardayal Hardy, J.
8. I agree
S.N. Andley, J.
9. I agree
Prakash Narain, J.
10. I agree