Explained: How Immunity for Lawmakers Facing Bribery Charges Reached SC?

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That the petitioner filed Writ petition (Crl) No. 128 of 2013 before the Hon’ble High Court for direction quashing the entire proceeding including the chargesheet bearing No. 04/2013 dated 07.06.2013 on the ground that the Petitioner cannot be prosecuted criminally as the provision contained in Section 194(2) of the Constitution of India confers immunity upon a MLA from proceeding in any court in respect of vote given by him in the Legislature and, as such, any prosecution of the Petitioner is against the mandate of the Constitution and, thereby, the order taking cognizance is liable to be quashed.

New Delhi (ABC Live): A seven-Judge Bench of Supreme Court of India on March 4, 2024 unanimously held that a lawmaker does not enjoy immunity under Articles 105(2) and 194(2) of the Constitution against bribery in case titled Sita Soren v Union of India.

As per Criminal Appeal No. 451 of 2019 filed by Sita Soren, serving member of Jharkhand Legislative Assembly from Jama.  The Petitioner is wife of Durga Soren ,late son of JMM chief Shibu Soren.

Following are the brief facts leading to filing of the present Special Leave Petition are as under:-

Elections were held for Jharkhand Assembly and the results were announced in December 2009. The petitioner was elected from Jama (ST) seat as Jharkhand Mukti Morcha candidate.

The Secretary to the Election Commission of India vide notification no. 318/1/2012 dated 12.03.2012 announced election to elect two members to Rajya Sabha to fill the vacancies of two members who were earlier elected to represent the State of Jharkhand and were due to retire on the 2nd April, 2012 on the expiration of their term of office. 19th March, 2012 was fixed for scrutiny of nomination papers. 22nd March, 2012 was fixed for withdrawal of nomination and 30th March, 2012 was fixed for poll.

On 27.03.2012 Shri Babulal Marandi and Dr Ajay Kumar both Members of Parliament (LS) of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha lodged a complaint to Chief Election Commissioner of India alleging horse trading at Rajya Sabha election for filing up two seats in Rajya Sabha from State of Jharkhand.

On 30.03.2012 i.e. the date of poll at about 6.30 am in the morning, as a result of the vigil of the tax authorities and the police, Rs.2.15 crores, in cash, were apprehended by the Income Tax authorities from a car bearing no. JH-01AC-2185. The custodian of the cash in the vehicle, Mr. Sudhanshu Tripathi, explained that the cash was handed over to him by Mr. Soumitra Sen, son-in-law of one of the independent candidate namely R.K. Agarwal, which was being transported from Jamshedpur to Ranchi. That the Petitioner had cast her vote in the Rajya Sabha elections on 30.03.2012.

Taking a serious note of the above developments, the Election Commission on 31.03.2012 recommended to the Hon’ble President to rescind the notification dated 12.03.2012 in so far as it related to the electoral process in respect of the biennial election to the Rajya Sabha from Jharkhand. On the above recommendation of the election commission, the Hon’ble President was pleased to rescind the aforesaid notification.

On 05.04.2012, the Hon’ble High Court in W.P (PIL) No. 1802 of 2012 was pleased to direct the Election Commission to hand over the matter Central Bureau of Investigation.

On 19.04.2012 the Central Bureau of Investigation instead of instituting a fresh FIR re-registered Namkum P.S. Case No. 58 of 2012. True copy of the FIR bearing RC 02 (S)/2012-AHD-R dated 19.4.2012 registered with CBI AHD, Ranchi.

Re-election was held for Rajya Sabha on 03.05.2012. That in the re-election held for the Rajya Sabha, the Petitioner casted her vote.

That the Speaker of the Jharkhand Legislative Assembly accorded sanction for prosecution of the Petitioner under section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1998 and under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on 18.05.2013.

That the Respondent on investigation filed chargesheet against the Petitioner on 03.06.2013 under sections 120(B) and 171 (E) of the Indian Penal Code and sections 13(2) r/w 13(1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. It has been alleged that the petitioner received bribe from the candidate R.K.Agarwal for casting vote.

That the court of Sri R.K. Choudhary, Spl. Judge, CBI, on 07.06.2013, took cognizance of offence under sections section 120(B) and Section 13(2) r/w 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 against the Petitioner. True copy of order dated 07/06/13 passed by Special Judge, CBI in RC 02 (S)/2012-AHD-R0.

That the petitioner filed Writ petition (Crl) No. 128 of 2013 before the Hon’ble High Court for direction quashing the entire proceeding including the chargesheet bearing No. 04/2013 dated 07.06.2013 on the ground that the Petitioner cannot be prosecuted criminally as the provision contained in Section 194(2) of the Constitution of India confers immunity upon a MLA from proceeding in any court in respect of vote given by him in the Legislature and, as such, any prosecution of the Petitioner is against the mandate of the Constitution and, thereby, the order taking cognizance is liable to be quashed.

The Hon’ble High Court vide order dated 17.02.2104 dismissed the Writ Petition (Cr.) No.128/2013 filed by the Petitioner.

That the petitioner surrendered herself and is in custody on 25.02.2014.

That aggrieved by the impugned judgment, the petitioner prefer the presents Special Leave Petition on following inter-alia other grounds which will be published in next post.

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