Bharat Express

Supreme Court Overrules 1998 Narsimha Rao Judgement, Declares MPs and MLAs Not Immune in Bribe-for-Vote Cases

The seven-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, stated that parliamentary privileges do not extend to bribery.

On March 4, the Supreme Court delivered a significant ruling stating that members of parliament and state assemblies are not immune from prosecution in bribery cases. Led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, the seven-judge bench overturned the 1998 judgment, commonly referred to as the PV Narasimha Rao judgment.

The previous verdict, issued by a five-judge constitution bench in the PV Narasimha Rao versus CBI case, had granted lawmakers immunity under the Constitution for any speeches made and votes cast within the legislative houses.

However, the Supreme Court deemed bribery as not protected by parliamentary privileges and contrary to Articles 105 and 194 of the Constitution. The Chief Justice labeled the decision a unanimous verdict, disagreeing with and overruling the immunity granted to legislators in the Narasimha Rao judgment.

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Following the Supreme Court’s orders, MPs and MLAs are now unable to claim immunity from prosecution for bribery related to their votes or speeches in the legislative houses. The bench stressed that corruption by a member of the legislature undermines probity in public life, with accepting bribes itself constituting an offense.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court cautioned against granting any privilege unrelated to the functioning of Parliament or legislature, stating that it would create a class exempt from the law of the land. The bench emphasized that parliamentary privileges are essential for the collective functioning of the House and noted that corruption and bribery contradict the ideals of the Constitution.

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The Supreme Court expanded its ruling to include elections to the Rajya Sabha or to the offices of the President and Vice President, asserting that they fall within the ambit of constitutional provisions applicable to parliamentary privilege.