Supreme Court Ends MP and MLA Immunity for Bribery

Image of the Supreme Court of India, symbolizing the landmark decision ending immunity for MPs and MLAs regarding bribery, as per the recent judgment.
Supreme Court Ends MP and MLA Immunity for Bribery

In a significant ruling on March 4, 2024, the Supreme Court of India delivered a landmark judgment, revoking the immunity previously enjoyed by Members of Parliament (MPs) and members of legislative assemblies (MLAs) in cases involving bribery for votes or speeches within their respective houses. Headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, a seven-judge bench overturned the contentious 1998 judgment in the PV Narasimha Rao versus CBI case.

Background of the Narasimha Rao Judgment

In 1998, a five-judge constitution bench had granted lawmakers immunity from criminal prosecution under Articles 105 and 194 of the Constitution for speeches made or votes cast within the House. This ruling, commonly referred to as the PV Narasimha Rao judgment, had sparked debate for over two decades.

Unanimous Verdict by the Seven-Judge Bench

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Narasimha Rao judgment was unanimous. Chief Justice Chandrachud remarked, “The judgment of the majority in Narasimha Rao which grants immunity to legislators has a grave danger and thus overruled.”

The bench emphasized the adverse impact of corruption and bribery by legislators on public probity, stating, “Corruption or bribery by a member of legislature erodes probity in public life,” stressing the need to hold elected representatives accountable.

Bribery Not Shielded by Parliamentary Privileges

The Supreme Court clarified that bribery is not shielded by parliamentary privileges, and the 1998 verdict's interpretation contradicts Articles 105 and 194 of the Constitution. Corruption and bribery were deemed detrimental to the constitutional ideals, and accepting bribes was recognized as an offense.

Implications of the Ruling

In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, MPs and MLAs can no longer claim immunity from prosecution for bribery related to their votes or speeches in the legislative house. This decision is expected to significantly impact corruption prevention and uphold the integrity of the legislative process.

The bench also emphasized that parliamentary privileges are essential for the collective functioning of the House and should not extend to unchecked exemptions from the law.

Scope of the Ruling

The ruling applies to elections to the Rajya Sabha and the offices of the President and Vice President, falling under the constitutional provisions governing parliamentary privilege.

This historic judgment marks a significant step towards ensuring accountability and transparency in India’s legislative framework.

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