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Wednesday, Feb 25, 2004

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Privilege power should be sparingly used: Delhi Speaker

By Our Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI, FEB. 24. The Delhi Assembly Speaker, Ajay Maken, today cautioned legislators across the nation "not to extend'' their legislative privileges while performing their duties in the government.

Stating that the privileges of the legislature were not extendable to the government, Mr. Maken said: "Any such extension is bound to invite criticism.''

He was delivering the presidential address at a seminar on "Judiciary, Legislature and Media — In a Model Role to Strengthen Indian Democracy'' organised by the Bureau of Legislative Studies of the Delhi Assembly and the Press Association. Mr. Maken said there was a thin dividing line between legislators performing their duties as part of legislature and political executives.

Urging legislators to preserve the privileges, as any unnecessary usage would deplete their value, he said: "The powers of privileges should be sparingly used in the rarest of rare cases. More frequently, the House at best should consult its own dignity.''

Arguing that the fear of punishment gave better results than the punishment itself, Mr. Maken felt that the House should show magnanimity in deciding upon contempt or breach of privileges cases. "The legislators should be extremely cautious while dealing with contempt issues with a third party, other than any one related to the legislature. For, in such cases, the rights of the third party are also involved,'' he said. Legislators should take constructive criticism in right earnest. "There is a difference between misreporting and criticism,'' he said. "The legislature would naturally and automatically command respect and privileges if it fulfils its obligations with a similar zeal as it seeks its privileges.''

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