Editorial With Sujit Nair | “No Immunity For Legislators Taking Bribe For Vote/Speech”: SC

In this Editorial episode, Mr. Sujit Nair discusses a significant ruling by a 7-judge bench of the Supreme Court, overturning the 1998 PV Narasimha Rao judgment. The previous verdict allowed Members of Parliament and legislative assemblies to claim immunity under Articles 105(2) and 194(2) of the Constitution for receiving bribes in anticipation of a vote or speech in the legislature. The latest decision, delivered by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices AS Bopanna, MM Sundresh, PS Narasimha, JB Pardiwala, Sanjay Kumar, and Manoj Misra, sets aside the earlier ruling. In the 1998 case, a five-judge bench had ruled, with a 3:2 majority, that legislators were immune from prosecution in bribery cases related to their parliamentary duties. This decision was challenged in an appeal by Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader Sita Soren, accused of accepting a bribe for a 2012 Rajya Sabha vote. The Jharkhand High Court rejected her plea, leading to the Supreme Court challenge. After a two-day hearing, the seven-judge bench reserved its verdict in October of the previous year. Today, the constitution bench held that a member of parliament or the state legislature cannot claim immunity from prosecution on charge of bribery in a criminal court by virtue of Articles 105(2) and 194(2) of the Constitution, observing – “”We disagree with and overrule the judgment of the majority on this aspect. We have concluded that first, the doctrine of stare decisis is not an inflexible rule of law. A larger bench of this court may reconsider a previous decision in appropriate cases bearing in mind the tests which have been formulated by this court. The judgment in PV Narasihma Rao which grants immunity from prosecution to a member of a legislature who has allegedly engaged in bribery for casting a vote or making a speech has wide ramifications on public interest, probity in public life, and parliamentary democracy. There is a grave danger of this court allowing the error to be perpetuated if the decision were not reconsidered.””

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