25 Sep 2023 3:37 PM GMT
The Supreme Court has constituted a seven-judge bench to hear the reference of the judgement in PV Narasimha Rao v State (1998) which had held that legislators enjoyed immunity from prosecution in cases of bribery in relation to parliamentary vote and speech as per Article 105(2) and Article 194(2) of the Indian Constitution. The judgement had added that the immunity would only be extended if...
The Supreme Court has constituted a seven-judge bench to hear the reference of the judgement in PV Narasimha Rao v State (1998) which had held that legislators enjoyed immunity from prosecution in cases of bribery in relation to parliamentary vote and speech as per Article 105(2) and Article 194(2) of the Indian Constitution. The judgement had added that the immunity would only be extended if the legislators carried out the act that they had taken the bribe for. In other words, if a legislator took a bribe to vote for a particular candidate but later decided to not go ahead with the same and voted for someone else, the immunity would not be extended to them.
Today, the Supreme Court released details of the seven-judge bench which will be hearing the matter. The bench comprises CJI DY Chandrachud, Justices AS Bopanna, MM Sundresh, PS Narasimha, JB Pardiwala, Sanjay Kumar and Manoj Misra.
The question of reference of the judgement arose in Sita Soren v. Union of India. This case pertains to Sita Soren, a member of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, who was accused of accepting bribe for the purpose of voting in favour of a particular candidate in the 2012 Rajya Sabha Elections. Subsequently, a chargesheet was filed against by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Challenging the same, Soren filed a petition before the Jharkhand High Court on the ground that she enjoyed immunity under Article 194(2) of the Constitution, 1950, which contemplates, 'no member of the Legislature of a State shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in the Legislature'. The High Court dismissed the petition. During the course of hearing in the appeal before the Apex Court, reliance was placed on the judgment in PV Narasimha Rao.
On September 20, a Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud along with Justices AS Bopanna, MM Sundresh, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra had heard the arguments on whether the judgement in PV Narasimha Rao required to be referred to a larger bench. The bench had pronounced a detailed order and stated that it was not inclined to accept the plea that the correctness of decision in PV Narasimha Rao did not arise in the present case. It also noted that while it was true that the members of state legislature must be free to express their views on the floor of the house without fear of consequences, however, the object of Article 105(2) or 194(2) did not prima facie appear to render immunity from the launch of criminal proceedings for violation of criminal law which may arise independently of the exercise of rights and duties as a member of parliament.
While hearing the matter, CJI DY Chandrachud had orally remarked–
"We must also not ignore that if it also furthers public morality on part of our elected representatives, then we should not defer our decision to some uncertain day in the future. Isn't it?"
The matter will now be heard on October 4, 2023.