Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by the Members of Parliament collectively and individually, without which they can not discharge their functions, and which privileges and immunities exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals. These privileges and immunities, however, are subject to leave from the Speaker of the Parliament. The rationale behind the immunities and privileges is the constitutional principle of separation of powers. To enable Parliament to carry out its duties effectively, they must be given some privileges and immunities to avoid external influence or threats from the other arms of government.
The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda expressly provides immunity and privileges to the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Members of Parliament under Article 97. It also extends to any other person participating or assisting in or acting in connection with or reporting the proceedings of Parliament or any of its committees. This immunity also extends to Officers of Parliament or persons employed to take minutes of evidence before Parliament or any committee of Parliament.
Some of the individual rights and privileges include;
- freedom of speech
- freedom from arrest in civil actions
- exemption from jury duty
- exemption from attendance as a witness
Whereas some of the collective rights and privileges include;
- the power to discipline that is; the right to punish (by incarceration) persons guilty of breaches of privilege or contempt’s, and the power to expel Members guilty of disgraceful conduct
- the regulation of its internal affairs
- the authority to maintain the attendance and service of its Members
- the right to institute inquiries and to call witnesses, and demand papers
- the right to administer oaths to witnesses
However, the above immunities and privileges can be waived by obtaining special leave of Parliament to allow the proceedings or information laid before Parliament to be used in court or in any other proceeding outside Parliament itself. The person responsible for granting this leave is the Speaker of Parliament or in the absence or incapacity of the Speaker or the clerk to Parliament during the dissolution of Parliament.