Legislature bribery case of JMM MP Sita Soren, a member of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), who has been quiet for a long, has hit the Supreme Court.
This time not because of her anti-JMM words. Sita Soren as an MLA was accused of accepting a bribe to vote for a particular candidate in the Rajya Sabha Elections of 2012.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had filed an official chargesheet against her for allegedly accepting a bribe for a vote and a case was filed in the High Court of Jharkhand.
In 2014 she challenged the CBI’s chargesheet and the Jharkhand High Court dismissed her plea fi seeking to quash the criminal proceedings. In her petition.
Sita Soren, the daughter-in-law of JMM supremo and its MP Shibu Soren and sister-in-law of Chief Minister Hemant Soren had claimed that she enjoyed “immunity” under Article 194(2) of the Constitution. The case was subsequently appealed before the Supreme Court.
A 3 judge Bench of the Supreme Court had heard the case on March 7, 2019 and took note of the decision of the Constitution Bench in P V Narasimha Rao v State(1998), where the Court (in a 3:2 majority) had held that parliamentarians enjoy immunity under the Constitution against criminal prosecution with regards to their speech and votes in the House.
Records revealed that the SC Bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi, S Abdul Nazeer, and Sanjiv Khanna J accordingly referred the matter to a five-member Bench. Later, the 5-judge Bench, comprising Justices A S Bopanna, M M Sundresh, J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, said:
“We are of the considered view that the correctness of the view of the majority in P V Narasimha Rao (case) should be reconsidered by a larger Bench of seven judges.” It said it is an “important issue that concerns our polity.”
Now, on Wednesday, the SC decided to reconsider “the correctness” of a 1998 5-judge Constitution Bench judgment in the P V Narasimha Rao case — where the majority had held that legislators have immunity against criminal prosecution on bribery charges for any speech or vote in Parliament.
But the Supreme Court on Wednesday referred the decision to a 7-judge Bench.
A 5-judge Constitution Bench presided by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said the larger Bench would deal with the question of the correctness of the verdict on the interpretation of Articles 105(2) and 194(2) of the Constitution, which extend the privilege to members of Parliament and State Legislatures respectively.
The P V Narasimha Rao case refers to the 1993 JMM bribery case, in which Shibu Soren and some of his party MPs were accused of taking bribes to vote against the no-confidence motion against the then P V Narasimha Rao government.
The Supreme Court had quashed the case against the JMM MPs, citing immunity under Article 105(2).
On September 20(Wednesday), the matter came up in another case related to bribery charges against JMM MLA Sita Soren, who was accused of having accepted a bribe to vote for an independent candidate in the 2012 Rajya Sabha elections.
A fresh election was held later. Now the political future of JMM MP Sita Soren rests on the verdict of the seven-judge bench of the SC.
Its verdict will decide whether Parliamentarians and or legislatures have immunity against criminal prosecution on bribery charges.