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Bribery charges on Legislators UPSC NOTE

 What are the constitutional provisions under which MPs and MLAs enjoy immunity from prosecution when it comes to voting or making a speech in Parliament or the Legislative Assemblies? 

  • The Indian Constitution provides certain immunities to the legislature, both at the central level and the state level .

Here's a breakdown of the key articles:

  • Article 105 (for Parliament) and Article 194 (for State Legislatures): These articles grant freedom of speech in Parliament and State Legislatures respectively. 

  • Members can freely express their views on matters of public importance without fear of legal action for anything said in the House.

  • Article 122 (for Parliament) and Article 212 (for State Legislatures): These articles provide immunity from arrest and detention in civil cases while attending Parliament/State Legislature sessions or on their way to or from sessions. 

  • However, this immunity is not available for criminal offences.

  • It's important to note that these immunities are not absolute and have some limitations:

  • Defamation laws: While members cannot be sued for statements made in the House, they can still be liable for defamation if their statements are false and malicious.

  • Contempt of Court: Immunity does not extend to situations where a member's actions within the House constitute contempt of court.

  • Power to punish its own members: Both Houses of Parliament and State Legislatures have the power to discipline their own members for misconduct, including suspension or expulsion.

  • These privileges and immunities are essential for ensuring free and frank debate on legislative matters. 

  • They allow members to represent their constituents' views without fear of intimidation or harassment. However, they should not be seen as a shield for unlawful or irresponsible behavior.

Is such a legislative privilege unqualified?

  • Sita Soren, a member of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), was accused of accepting a bribe to cast her vote in favour of a certain candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections of 2012.

  • Soon a chargesheet was filed against her

  • In 2014, the Jharkhand High Court dismissed Ms. Soren’s plea wherein she claimed she enjoyed legal immunity under Article 194(2). 

  • The dismissal in the High Court led to an appeal being filed in the Supreme Court

  • On September 20, 2023, a five-judge Bench headed by CJI Chandrachud while hearing the appeal doubted the correctness of the majority view in P.V. Narasimha versus State (1998) and accordingly referred the matter to a seven-judge Bench while underscoring that it is an “important issue that concerns our polity”.

Why did the court overrule its P. V. Narasimha Rao judgment?

  • The P.V. Narasimha Rao ruling involves the 1993 JMM bribery case against former Union Minister Shibu Soren, the father-in-law of Sita Soren, the petitioner in the present case

  • Mr. Soren, along with some of his party members, were accused of taking bribes to vote against the no-confidence motion against the then P.V. Narasimha Rao government

  • While two judges on the Constitution Bench opined that legislative immunity granted under the Constitution could not be extended to such cases, the majority of them, while acknowledging

the seriousness of the offence, ruled that "a narrow construction of the constitutional provisions" may result in the impairment of the guarantee of “parliamentary participation and debate”.


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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Bribery charges on Legislators UPSC NOTE
Bribery charges on Legislators UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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