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Can A Legislator Who Receives Bribe For Vote In Legislature Claim Immunity Under Article 105/194 (2) Of Constitution? SC Constitution Bench To Examine

Ashok Kini
8 March 2019 2:36 PM GMT
Can A Legislator Who Receives Bribe For Vote In Legislature Claim Immunity Under Article 105/194 (2) Of Constitution? SC Constitution Bench To Examine
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Whether Article 105/194 (2) of the Constitution of India confers any immunity on the Members of Parliament/Legislative Assembly from being prosecuted for an offence involving offer or acceptance of bribe to caste vote in a legislature? A three judge bench of the Supreme Court led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi has referred this question to a larger bench, while considering Sita Soren's...

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Whether Article 105/194 (2) of the Constitution of India confers any immunity on the Members of Parliament/Legislative Assembly from being prosecuted for an offence involving offer or acceptance of bribe to caste vote in a legislature? 

A three judge bench of the Supreme Court led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi has referred this question to a larger bench, while considering Sita Soren's appeal against Jharkhand High Court order which held that she could not claim immunity.

Having regard to the 'wide ramification of the question', the bench said that it deserves to be considered by a larger bench, even though a five judge bench had already answered the exact same question in P.V. Narasimha Rao vs. State. The bench also comprising Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Sanjiv Khanna observed:

"Having considered the matter we are of the view that having regard to the wide ramification of the question that has arisen, the doubts raised and the issue being a matter of substantial public importance we should be requesting for a reference of the matter to a larger Bench, as may be considered appropriate, to hear and decide the issue arising."

PV Narasimha Rao Case

In PV Narasimha Rao case, a five judge bench was called upon to answer this issue: Whether by virtue of Article 105 of the Constitution a Member of Parliament can claim immunity from prosecution on a charge of bribery in a criminal court.?

The majority (3:2) held that Members of Parliament who voted on the no-confidence motion by taking bribe are entitled to immunity from criminal prosecution for the offences of bribery and criminal conspiracy conferred on them by Article 105(2) of the Constitution.

However, two judges had taken the view that the immunity granted under these constitutional provisions cannot extend to cases where bribery for making a speech or vote in a particular manner in the House is alleged.

Jharkhand HC View

Jharkhand HC had rejected the contention taken by Sita Soren that, as she has been charged to have received bribe for casting vote in favour of one MLA R.K.Agarwal, she cannot be prosecuted criminally as the provision contained in Section 194(2) of the Constitution of India.

Though heavy reliance was placed on PV Narasimha Rao judgment, the bench made an interesting interpretation. It said that, the majority in the said judgment had only held that, if one casts vote pursuant to the alleged conspiracy and agreement, then alleged conspiracy and the agreement can be said to have had nexus with the vote. Justice RR Prasad observed:

"Conversely, I can say that if the alleged act of receiving money pursuant to the conspiracy and the agreement, if the vote is not cast in favour of the person from whom money was received, then casting of vote will have no nexus with the alleged act of receiving money and, therefore, in that premise."

In PV Narasimha Rao Judgment, it was found that the protection of immunity was not available to Ajit Singh as he did not cast vote though he was one of the Members of the conspiracy. Dismissing the plea, the court had held:

"Thus, I am of the view that the act of the petitioner of receiving money pursuant to the conspiracy and the agreement with R.K.Agarwal, will have no nexus with the vote on account of the fact that she did not cast vote in favour of the said R.K.Agarwal and, thereby, she will have no immunity as guaranteed under Sub-clause (2) of Article 194 of the Constitution of India."

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Read HC Judgment




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