Can Lawmakers Claim Immunity From Prosecution For Taking Bribe To Vote? Constitution Bench Appoints Amicus Curiae
The Supreme Court today appointed Senior Advocate P S Patwalia as amicus curiae to assist it in examining whether an MP or MLA can claim immunity from criminal prosecution for taking bribe to make a speech or vote in the Legislative Assembly or Parliament.
A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Justice S A Nazeer also asked Advocate Gaurav Agarwal to assist Patwalia in the matter.
The bench, also comprising Justice B R Gavai, Justice A S Bopanna, Justice V Ramasubramanian, and Justice B V Nagarathna, said it will hear the issue on December 6, 2022.
In 2019, a bench headed by then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice Sanjiv Khanna had referred to a five-judge bench the crucial question, noting it had "wide ramification" and was of "substantial public importance".
The three-judge bench had then said it will revisit its 24-year-old verdict in the sensational Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) bribery case on an appeal filed by Sita Soren, a JMM MLA from Jama constituency in Jharkhand.
The Apex Court, in its 1998 five-judge constitution bench verdict delivered in the PV Narasimha Rao versus CBI case, had held that parliamentarians had immunity under the Constitution against criminal prosecution for any speech made and vote cast inside the house.
She had appealed against the Jharkhand High Court order of February 17, 2014 refusing to quash a criminal case lodged against her for allegedly taking bribe to vote for a particular candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections held in 2012.
She was charged by the CBI with allegedly taking bribe from one candidate and voting for another.
Sita Soren is the daughter-in-law of former union minister and Jharkhand chief minister Shibu Soren, who was a key accused in the JMM bribery case.
Shibu Soren, along with his four-party MPs, had allegedly taken bribe to vote against the no-confidence motion against the then P V Narasimha Rao government at the Centre in July 1993.
With PTI inputs