Wednesday, April 24, 2024

‘No immunity for lawmakers indulging in graft’, SC overrules majority verdict in 1998 JMM bribery case

The Supreme Court Monday disagreed with and overruled its 1998 judgment that gave legislators immunity from bribery charges in connection with votes made in Parliament and Legislative Assemblies.

“The judgment of the majority in Narsimha Rao (case) which grants immunity to legislators has a grave danger and thus overruled,” a seven-judge Bench led by the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud noted.

The Bench in a unanimous judgment said that a legislator would not be protected for parliamentary privilege and would be liable for criminal prosecution under the Prevention of Corruption Act for accepting the bribe. The crime was complete the moment the bribe was accepted, whether or not, he or she had followed it up by voting or making a speech in the manner the bribe giver wanted it, the court held.

Taking bribes by legislators destroyed the fabric of representative democracy, the Chief Justice held.

The judgment has virtually opened the doors for the CBI to initiate prosecution against the accused in the bribery case under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

In 1998, a 3:2 majority judgment of a five-judge bench in PV Narasimha Rao v State (CBI/SPE) held that legislators enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution for bribery in matters connected to their speech and votes in Parliament and Legislative Assemblies.

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