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Judiciary

'Bribery not protected as Parliamentary privileges,' SC overrules 1998 majority view in P V Narasimha Rao case [Read Judgment]

By Jhanak Singh      04 March, 2024 11:47 AM      0 Comments
Bribery not protected as Parliamentary privileges SC overrules majority view in P V Narasimha Rao case

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday said bribery and corruption destroy the functioning of Indian Parliamentary system as it overruled the 1998 judgement of majority in P V Narasimha Roa granting immunity to MPs from prosecution to bribery for voting or speech in Parliament.

Observing that granting immunity in such cases would have wider ramifications and affect probity in public life, a seven-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said, "We hold that bribery is not protected by Parliamentary privileges."

Pronouncing the excerpt of judgment, the CJI held that bribery is not rendered immune under Article 105 or 194 of the Constitution because a member indulging in bribery indulges in a criminal act which is not essential for the function of casting a vote or giving a speech in the legislature.

The bench by a unanimous view disagreed with the majority view taken in the 1998 case known as 'JMM Bribery case'.

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The court said a claim for immunity for act of bribery failed to fulfil the test whether such immunity is necessary to discharge legislative functions.

"The interpretation of P V Narasimha judgment is contrary to Articles 105 and 194 of the Constitution. P V Narasimha judgment results in a paradoxical situation where a legislator, who accepts a bribe and votes accordingly is protected whereas a legislator, who despite taking a bribe votes independently is prosecuted," the bench said.

The court said an MLA taking bribe to vote in Rajya Sabha elections is also liable to be prosecuted under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

To give any privilege unconnected to the functioning of Parliament or legislature would lead to creating a class which enjoyed unchecked exemptions from operation of the laws of the land, the bench said.

On October 5, 2023, the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna, M M Sundresh, P S Narasimha, J B Pardiwala, Sanjay Kumar and Manoj Misra, had reserved the judgment in the case titled as "Sita Soren Vs Union of India".

In 2019, a bench led by then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, which was hearing an appeal filed by Sita Soren, had referred to a five-judge bench the crucial question, noting it had “wide ramification” and was of “substantial public importance”.

The court had ordered to set up a larger Constitution bench to decide if a lawmaker can take refuge under immunity clause to avoid criminal prosecution for voting in Parliament or Assembly after taking bribe from some beneficiary.

The question before the top court had arisen as Sita Soren, JMM chief Sibu Soren's daughter-in-law, questioned her prosecution on charges of bribery during the Rajya Sabha elections of 2012.

 

[Read Judgment]



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