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Legislators' Immunity: Narasimha Rao & Sita Soren Cases



  Mar 04, 2024

Immunity of Legislators from Bribery Charges: P.V. Narasimha Rao Case and the Sita Soren Case



The majority judgement interpreted the phrase "in respect of anything said or any vote given" in these articles broadly. They reasoned that as long as the alleged bribe was connected to a vote or speech given in the legislature, the legislator was protected from criminal prosecution. This interpretation extended immunity even to acts like offering or accepting bribes, as long as they were linked to the legislative process.

Criticisms of the Narasimha Rao Judgement:

Erosion of public trust: Critics argued that granting immunity for bribery undermines democratic principles and erodes public trust in legislators. They believe such criminal acts should not be shielded under the guise of legislative immunity.

Contradiction with anti-corruption laws: The judgement was criticized for contradicting the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PCA), which criminalizes the act of accepting bribes by public servants, irrespective of their connection to legislative duties.

Narrow interpretation of the Constitution: Some legal scholars argued that the court adopted a narrow interpretation of the Constitution by focusing solely on the literal meaning of the phrases, neglecting the broader purpose of ensuring ethical conduct and upholding the rule of law.
The Sita Soren Case and its Impact:

The case of Sita Soren, an MLA accused of accepting a bribe for her vote in Rajya Sabha elections, triggered a review of the Narasimha Rao judgement. While Soren's case specifically deals with alleged bribery in Rajya Sabha elections, it sparked a broader debate about the scope and limitations of legislator immunity. The court is considering whether the Narasimha Rao interpretation should be upheld, modified, or overturned entirely.

Potential Impact of the Upcoming Decision:

The Supreme Court's upcoming decision in the context of the Sita Soren case will have a significant impact on the legal landscape surrounding legislators and potential bribery charges. It has the potential to:

Strengthen accountability: Overruling the Narasimha Rao judgement could lead to stricter legal consequences for legislators engaging in bribery, potentially deterring such actions and promoting greater accountability within the legislative branch.
Clarify the scope of immunity: The court might provide a clearer definition of the specific legislative functions (e.g., voting in Parliament vs. Rajya Sabha elections) and types of actions that fall under the scope of immunity, if any.
Spark legislative reforms: The court's decision could prompt discussions and potential reforms within the legislature to address issues like bribery and uphold ethical conduct amongst legislators.



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