Immunity of legislators from bribery charges
Polity & Governance
29th Sep, 2023
The Supreme Court (SC) is going to observe the need to examine the validity of its 1998 constitution bench ruling in PV Narasimha Rao vs. State, referring it to a larger bench for fresh consideration to decide on if lawmakers can be prosecuted for taking bribes despite legal protection mentioned in the Constitution.
About the Case:
- The Supreme Court is examining whether lawmakers can be prosecuted for taking bribes, despite certain legal protections mentioned in the Constitution.
- The issue has been under consideration since 2014 when it was recognized as important and referred to larger benches for discussion.
- The current 5-judge bench believes that the matter needs reconsideration by a larger 7-judge bench due to its significance and impact on the functioning of legislators.
Provisions for legislator’s immunity from prosecution:
- Article 105 of the Constitution deals with the powers, privileges, etc. of the Houses of Parliament and of the members and committees thereof.
- Article 105(2) states, “No member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof, and no person shall be so liable in respect of the publication by or under the authority of either House of Parliament of any report, paper, votes or proceedings.”
This immunity extends to certain non-members, like the Attorney General of India or a Minister who may not be a member but speaks in the House.
- In cases where a member oversteps or exceeds the contours of admissible free speech, the Speaker of the House will deal with it.
- Article 194(2) extends this immunity to MLAs and states to protect its members of assembly from prosecution.
- PV Narasimha Rao case refers to the 1993 JMM bribery case, under which SC has mentioned that protection under Article 105(2) or 194(2) and the immunity granted could not extend to cases concerning bribery for making a speech or vote in a particular manner in the House.
- Later on, the top court in 1998 quashed the case against the JMM MPs, citing immunity under Article 105(2).