Sita Soren vs Union Of India 2024 INSC 161 :: [2024] 3 S.C.R. 462 -Cash For Votes – Immunity Of Legislators

Constitution of India, 1950; Article 105(2) and 194(2)P.V. Narasimha Rao vs. State (CBI/SPE) [1998] 2 S.C.R. 870 overruled. (7-0) : The judgment of the majority in PV Narasimha Rao, which grants immunity from prosecution to a member of the legislature who has allegedly engaged in bribery for casting a vote or speaking has wide ramifications on public interest, probity in public life and parliamentary democracy.- An individual member of the legislature cannot assert a claim of privilege to seek immunity under Articles 105 and 194 from prosecution on a charge of bribery in connection with a vote or speech in the legislature. (Para 188)

Constitution of India, 1950; Article 80, 194(2) -Whether votes cast by elected members of the state legislative assembly in an election to the Rajya Sabha are protected by Article 194(2) of the Constitution ? – Voting for elections to the Rajya Sabha falls within the ambit of Article 194(2) – Elections to the Rajya Sabha are not part of the law-making functions and do not take place during a sitting of the House. However, the text of Article 194 consciously uses the term ‘Legislature’ instead of ‘House’ to include parliamentary processes which do not necessarily take place on the floor of the House or involve ‘lawmaking’ in its pedantic sense – the role played by elected members of the state legislative assemblies in electing members of the Rajya Sabha under Article 80 is significant and requires utmost protection to ensure that the vote is exercised freely and without fear of legal persecution. The free and fearless exercise of franchise by elected members of the legislative assembly while electing members of the Rajya Sabha is undoubtedly necessary for the dignity and efficient functioning of the state legislative assembly. Any other interpretation belies the text of Article 194(2) and the purpose of parliamentary privilege. Indeed, the protection under Articles 105 and 194 has been colloquially called a “parliamentary privilege” and not “legislative privilege” for a reason. It cannot be restricted to only law-making on the floor of the House but extends to other powers and responsibilities of elected members, which take place in the Legislature or Parliament, even when the House is not sitting. (Para 168-87)

Precedents – Doctrine of Stare Decisis -The doctrine of stare decisis provides that the Court should not lightly dissent from precedent -But this Doctrine is not an inflexible rule of law, and it cannot result in perpetuating an error to the detriment of the general welfare of the public. – A larger bench may reconsider a previous decision in appropriate cases, bearing in mind the tests which have been formulated in the precedents. -A decision delivered by a Bench of larger strength is binding on any subsequent Bench of lesser or coequal strength. A Bench of lesser strength cannot disagree with or dissent from the view of the law taken by the bench of larger strength. However, a bench of the same strength can question the correctness of a decision rendered by a co-ordinate bench. In such situations, the case is placed before a bench of larger strength. – SC may review its earlier decisions if it believes that there is an error, or the effect of the decision would harm the interests of the public or if “it is inconsistent with the legal philosophy of the Constitution”. In cases involving the interpretation of the Constitution, it would do so more readily than in other branches of law because not rectifying a manifest error would be harmful to public interest and the polity. -The period of time over which the case has held the field is not of primary consequence. SC has overruled decisions which involve the interpretation of the Constitution despite the fact that they have held the field for long periods of time when they offend the spirit of the Constitution.(Para 33, 188.1)

Constitution of India, 1950; Article 105(2) and 194(2) – The assertion of a privilege by an individual member of Parliament or Legislature would be governed by a twofold test. First, the privilege claimed has to be tethered to the collective functioning of the House, and second, its necessity must bear a functional relationship to the discharge of the essential duties of a legislator. (Para 91)

Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 ; Section 7 Bribery – The offence of bribery is complete on the acceptance of the money or on the agreement to accept money being concluded. The offence is not contingent on the performance of the promise for which money is given or is agreed to be given – the mere “obtaining”, “accepting” or “attempting” to obtain an undue advantage with the intention to act or forbear from acting in a certain way is sufficient to complete the offence. It is not necessary that the act for which the bribe is given be actually performed. (Para 107, 117)

Interpretation of Statutes – Illustrations appended to a section are of value and relevance in construing the text of a statutory provision and they should not be readily rejected as repugnant to the section. (Para 118)

Precedents – A decision delivered by a Bench of larger strength is binding on any subsequent Bench of lesser or coequal strength. A Bench of lesser strength cannot disagree with or dissent from the view of the law taken by the bench of larger strength. However, a bench of the same strength can question the correctness of a decision rendered by a co-ordinate bench. In such situations, the case is placed before a bench of larger strength. (Para 24)

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