‘We need a definition of what a parliamentary duty is’ – Legal practitioner

Private legal practitioner, Kweku Paintsil, has called for clarification of the provisions of articles 117 and 118 of the 1992 Constitution to properly determine what constitutes parliamentary duties.

He said without such a clarification, MPs would interpret the privileges accorded them under these articles to mean immunity from police arrest regardless of their actions.

Mr. Kweku Paintsill made this suggestion in an interview with Samson Lardy Anyenini on The Law on Sunday.

“We need a definition of what a parliamentary duty is because that is what attracts that privilege. So that anytime, we can agree that what the MP is doing could be defined as a parliamentary duty,” he said.

MP for Madina, Francis Xavier Sosu, last week, reported two police officers to the Speaker of Parliament for attempting to arrest him during a demonstration he organized for constituents over the poor state of roads in his constituency.

According to him, the police went out of their way in making efforts to arrest him without approval from Parliament.

Mr. Francis Xavier Sosu said he was performing parliamentary duties when he was protesting and the action of the police personnel was in contravention of Article 117 of the Constitution.

Article 117 states that, “civil or criminal processes coming from any court or place out of Parliament shall not be served on, or executed in relations to, the Speaker or a member or the Clerk to Parliament while he is on his way to, attending at or returning from, any proceedings of parliament.”

This stance by the MP has sparked a public conversation on the privileges that MPs enjoy.

Lawyer Kweku Paintsil, wading into the conversation, said that the MP’s basis for refusing arrest, if extended, would mean that parliamentarians should be accorded their immunity privilege wherever they find themselves.

“A logical extension of that kind of privilege that claims that if an MP organizes a demonstration and participates in it, he calls it part of his parliamentary duties, but we know what parliamentarians are to do, it is lawmaking, there are related functions as well.”

“But if we find ourselves at any point in time, and we ask ourselves what are parliamentary duties, would anybody think organizing a demonstration is part of parliamentary duty?” he queried.

Whilst not questioning the privileges of MPs, Kweku Painstil said it will be in their interest to cooperate first with law enforcers.

“There is no trampling on your rights because the rights that the law has given to you is subject to the rights that police have,” he intimated.

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