New Delhi, Sep 25 (IANS): The Supreme Court on Monday notified the composition of a 7-judge Constitution Bench which will hear the reference against its 1998 judgment granting immunity to lawmakers from criminal prosecution for accepting bribes to make a speech or vote in the Parliament or state legislatures.
As per the notice issued by the top court, a bench, headed by CJI D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna, M.M. Sundresh, P.S. Narasimha, J.B. Pardiwala, Sanjay Kumar, and Manoj Misra will take up the matter for hearing on October 4.
On September 20, a 5-judge Constitution Bench headed by CJI Chandrachud agreed to revisit the 1998 judgment in P.V. Narasimha Rao versus CBI case, where the top court had held that the parliamentarians, against the backdrop of Article 105 of the Constitution, enjoy immunity against criminal prosecution with regards to their speech and votes in the House. Article 105 grants immunity to a member of Parliament "in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof".
Similar immunity is conferred by Article 194(2) on Members of the State Legislatures. It said that the object of these provisions is clearly not to set apart the members of the legislature as persons who wield higher privileges in terms of immunity from the application of the general criminal law of the land which citizens of the land do not possess.
"The purpose of Article 105(2) and Article 194(2) is to ensure that members of Parliament and of state legislatures are able to discharge duties in an atmosphere of freedom without fear of the consequences which may follow for the matter in which they speak or exercise their right to vote on floor of house," it added.
In 2019, a 3-judge bench headed by then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi referred the matter for consideration to a larger bench "having regard to the wide ramification of the question that has arisen, the doubts raised and the issue being a matter of substantial public importance".
Sita Soren, a member of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), had approached the Supreme Court in 2014 seeking nullification of criminal charges instituted against her for allegedly accepting a bribe to vote in favour of a particular candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections of 2012.