Case Description

A 5 Judge Bench of the Supreme Court will decide whether a legislator enjoys immunity under Article 194(2) of the Constitution from prosecution for accepting bribes to vote in Parliament or an Assembly.

Background

Sita Soren, a member of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) was accused of accepting a bribe to vote for a particular candidate in the Rajya Sabha Elections of 2012. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) subsequently filed an official chargesheet against Sita Soren for allegedly accepting a bribe for a vote and a case was filed in the High Court of Jharkhand. In 2014, The Jharkhand High Court dismissed the plea filed by Sita Soren seeking to quash the criminal proceedings that had been initiated against her, claiming that she enjoyed immunity under Article 194(2) of the Constitution. The case has subsequently been appealed before the Supreme Court. 

 

A 3 judge Bench of the Supreme Court heard the case on March 7th, 2019 and took note of the decision of the Constitution Bench in P V Narsimha Rao v. State (1998), where the Court in a 3:2 majority had held that parliamentarians had immunity under the Constitution against criminal prosecution with regards to their speech and votes in the House. The Bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S Abdul Nazeer, and Justice Sanjiv Khanna had accordingly referred the matter for consideration by a larger Bench. 

 

Article 194(2) states that '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 or any committee thereof, and no person shall be so liable in respect of the publication by or under the authority of a House of such a Legislature of any report, paper, votes or proceedings.'

Issues

1) Whether a legislator enjoys immunity under Article 105 (2) or Article 194(2) of the Constitution from prosecution for accepting bribes to vote in Parliament or an Assembly.

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