A seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict on reconsideration of its 1998 judgement which had held that MPs and MLAs enjoy immunity from prosecution for taking bribe to make a speech or vote in legislature.
The constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud reserved the verdict after hearing a battery of senior lawyers including Attorney General R Venkataramani and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
The larger bench is reconsidering the 1998 verdict delivered in the JMM bribery case by a five-judge bench by which the MPs and MLAs were granted immunity from prosecution for taking bribe to make a speech or vote in legislature. The apex court is revisiting the judgement 25 years after the JMM bribery scandal rocked the country.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, while arguing the matter, urged the court to not go into the immunity aspect under Article 105 of the Constitution.
“The offence of bribery is complete when a bribe is given and accepted by the lawmaker. It can be tackled under the Prevention of Corruption Act,” the law officer said.
“Neither the majority nor minority (judgement of 1998) examined the issue from this perspective. The short question, on which present reference is based, is whether the offence of bribery is complete outside the House. If it is, this court does not need to go into the question of immunity,” the law officer said.
On Wednesday, the court said it will examine whether the immunity granted to lawmakers from prosecution for taking bribes to make a speech or vote in Parliament and state legislatures extends to them even if criminality is attached to their actions.
Article 105(2) stipulates that no member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in court in respect of anything said or any vote cast in Parliament or any committee thereof. A similar provision exists for MLAs under Article 194(2).
A five-judge constitution bench had in its majority verdict delivered in the PV Narasimha Rao versus CBI case had held in 1998 that parliamentarians have immunity against criminal prosecution for any speech made and vote cast inside the House under Article 105(2) and Article 194(2) of the Constitution.
The Rao government, which was in a minority, had survived a no-confidence vote with the help of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) Lok Sabha MPs who had accepted bribes to back his dispensation.