Supreme Court’s ruling on immunity for legislators facing bribery charges | Explained

Syllabus: GS- II, Subject: Polity, Topic: Legislature, Issue: Privileges

Context- A seven-judge Constitution Bench unanimously overruled the judgment in P.V Narasimha Rao v. State (1998).

Highlights of the judgement

  • MPs and MLAs could not claim immunity from prosecution for accepting bribes to influence their actions in the legislature.
  • Allowed law enforcement agencies to initiate prosecution against legislators in bribery cases under the PCA, 1988.
  • Aims to uphold the integrity of parliamentary proceedings and combat corruption within the legislative system.

Key takeaway from the verdict:

  • The Chief Justice clarified that legislative privileges are meant to enable free debate and deliberation within the legislature and should not cover acts of bribery, undermining the purpose of such immunity.
  • The court introduced a two-fold test for claiming privileges, emphasizing that acts of bribery, unrelated to the essential duties of legislators, do not qualify for immunity.
  • It was affirmed that both the judiciary and the parliament have jurisdiction over bribery charges against legislators, operating in distinct spheres.
  • The principles of this verdict also apply to Rajya Sabha elections and the appointments of the President and Vice-President, thereby overruling the Kuldip Nayar case (2006) which excluded Rajya Sabha elections from the scope of parliamentary privileges under Article 194.
+1 Advantage for mains (extra point for mains)

·         Two fold test for the privileges:

Ø  The privilege claimed has to be tethered to the collective functioning of the House

Ø  Its necessity must bear a functional relationship to the discharge of the essential duties of a legislator.

·         Kuldip Nayar v. Union of India (2006), ( SC has overruled this observation in the current case)

Ø  Elections to the Rajya Sabha are not proceedings of the legislature but a mere exercise of franchise and therefore fall outside the ambit of parliamentary privileges under Article 194.

Scroll to Top