New Delhi, March 4: A 7-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Monday overruled a 1998 judgment granting immunity to legislators from criminal prosecution for accepting bribes to make a speech or vote in the Parliament or state legislatures. In its unanimous verdict, the Constitution Bench headed by CJI D.Y. Chandrachud held that MPs/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 Constitution Bench, also comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna, M.M. Sundresh, P.S. Narasimha, J.B. Pardiwala, Sanjay Kumar, and Manoj Misra, had reserved its judgment on the issue in October last year. During the hearing, Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, had pleaded that the immunity given to MPs/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. Lawmakers, State Legislatures Can’t Claim Immunity From Prosecution in Bribery Cases, Rules Supreme Court

SG Mehta added that the CJI Chandrachud-led Constitution Bench may have an option to classify the 1998 judgment in P.V. Narasimha Rao versus CBI case as per incuriam which failed to take into account the statutory scheme of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1998, instead of making a declaration that it is not a good law. In its 1998 judgment in P.V. 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. ‘Swagatam’: PM Narendra Modi Hails Supreme Court’s Decision on Bribery Cases Against Lawmakers, Says Judgment Will Ensure Clean Politics

In 2019, a 3-judge bench headed by then Chief Justice of India 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 Supreme 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.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Mar 04, 2024 01:12 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website