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‘Immunity of MPs not absolute’ – Speaker caution members

Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, has told Members of Parliament not to be oblivious of their parliamentary immunity against court processes and police arrest.

He said although MPs have legislative immunity, that privilege that ensures that MPs are not distracted by detention in line of duty is not absolute.

“I must bring to your attention, the fact that the immunity enjoyed by the Speaker, Members of Parliament, and Clerk to Parliament are not absolute anytime, anywhere, and any day”, the Speaker said while delivering a seminal ruling on the exercise of privileges and immunities by members in the house on Wednesday.

Rt. Hon Bagbin said Article 117, which gives the immunity granted by the Constitution to specific functionaries of Parliament is only to be exercised when the functionary “is on his way to, attending at or returning from, any proceedings of Parliament”.

His concerns were however that, while the enforcement and application of the provisions in article 118 of the 1992 Constitution have largely been without incident, the enforcement and application of article 117 has been fraught with challenges.

In the speaker’s speech, he described as unlawful, unconstitutional and an interference instances where the MPs are served with such court processes within the precincts of the House, and advised the judiciary and security agencies to desist from such acts.

Abuse of immunity

Nonetheless, the Rt. Hon. Bagbin was quick to add that, it is worrying how some legislators abuse their immunity rights.

“Members without a doubt the immunity from service of processes is necessary to prevent the use of such processes to impede the work of Parliament. This should, however, not be understood to mean that Hon. Members cannot be served at all with any processes from outside parliament”, the Speaker cautioned.

He added that: “the constitutional privileges and immunities must not be abused nor asserted to frustrate its very purpose of promoting our democracy.”

The Speaker clarified that when Parliament is not in session or an MP is not on his way to, attending at or returning from the business of Parliament, such a member may be served a court process and may appear as a witness in a court proceeding.

Additionally, if the Speaker has not certified that a member or the clerk to parliament is attending to the business of Parliament, an MP may not evade service of court process or refuse to appear as a court summoned witness in a court proceeding.

“Any such act would amount to a violation of Articles 117 and 118 of the Constitution and same would not be encouraged in this House”, he said.

Source:Citinewsroom

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