MPs, MLAs Can Face Prosecution for Bribery for Votes or Speech in Parliament and Assemblies: SC
Moneylife Digital Team 04 March 2024
While overturning its 1998 ruling that allowed immunity to members of Parliament (MPs) and members of legislative assemblies (MLAs), the seven-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court held that legislators could face criminal prosecution for bribery for votes speech in Parliament and legislative assemblies.
 
In its unanimous verdict, the Constitution bench headed by chief justice Dr DY Chandrachud held that MPs and MLAs cannot claim immunity from prosecution in a criminal court for engaging in bribery for casting a vote or speaking in a particular manner.
 
The bench says, "We disagree with the judgment in PV Narasimha (case). The judgment in PV Narasimha, which grants immunity to legislators for allegedly bribery for casting a vote or speech, has wide ramifications and is overruled. Such a claim for immunity fails to fulfil to the test whether such immunity is necessary to discharge legislative functions."

"Bribery is not rendered immune under Article 105 or 194 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 offence of bribe is crystallised on the taking of illegal gratification. It does not depend on whether the vote or speech is given later. The offence is complete at the point of time when the legislator accepts the bribe," it added.
 
In October last year, the bench, also comprising justice AS Bopanna, justice MM Sundresh, justice PS Narasimha, justice JB Pardiwala, justice Sanjay Kumar, and justice Manoj Misra, had reserved its judgment on the issue.
 
During the hearing, solicitor general (SG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Union government, pleaded that the immunity given to MPs and MLAs should not protect them from criminal prosecution for accepting bribes, saying that performance part of the bargain in terms of giving vote or speech is not relevant as the offence is committed outside the House.
 
He contended that the chief justice Chandrachud-led Constitution bench may have an option to classify the 1998 judgement in PV Narasimha Rao versus central bureau of investigation (CBI) case as per incuriam which failed to take into account the statutory scheme of the Prevention of Corruption Act instead of making a declaration that it is not a good law.
 
In its 1998 judgement in PV Narasimha Rao versus CBI case, the apex court had laid down that the parliamentarians, against the backdrop of Article 105 of the Constitution, enjoy immunity against criminal prosecution in respect of anything said or any vote given in Parliament. Similar immunity is conferred by Article 194(2) on members of the state legislatures.
 
In 2019, a three-judge bench headed by then chief justice Ranjan Gogoi referred the issue for consideration to a larger bench having regard to the "wide ramification of the question that has arisen" after Jharkhand Mukti Morcha member Sita Soren approached the apex court in 2014 seeking nullification of criminal charges instituted against her for allegedly accepting a bribe to vote in favour of a particular candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections of 2012.
Comments
yerramr
1 month ago
This is a landmark judgment in Indian Democracy. It is in public knowledge that a majority of legislators and parliamentarians spend huge money and material to win their chair in the Parliament or legislature. They make also promises to the gullible voters that are never measured in terms of the outcomes. Bribery has different forms. Any form should be equal offence in the eyes of law. The election manifesto of the ruling party should be assessed mid-term over the achievement of the manifesto promises by an independent organisation designated by the High Court/Supreme Court. If those promises are not fulfilled as per the evaluation, the party should be deprived of the ruling status and elections shoul d be reordered.
homaielavia
1 month ago
Excellent Judgement. All are equal in law. MPs & MLAs, as representatives of the people, are responsible for upholding the law and should not be exempted in any way. In fact, once tainted (even if not proved corrupt), they should be debarred from all parliamentary activities and not condoned at all.
ranbirlamba
1 month ago
Giving for freebies for votes & horse trading amounts to or not . If so EC will have to disqualify a large number
"Bribery is not rendered immune under Article 105 or 194 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 offence of bribe is crystallised on the taking of illegal gratification. It does not depend on whether the vote or speech is given later. The offence is complete at the point of time when the legislator accepts the bribe," it added.
iaminprabhu
1 month ago
Excellent SC Judgement!

Infact CORRUPTION at political level in LS or RS or State Assemblies by elected members strikes at the very fabric of Democracy & must not be tolerated as it affects entire constituency & laks of common people
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