Law & Judiciary

    'Desirable to set right the law': Congress welcomes Supreme Court verdict in JMM bribery case

    The Hawk
    March4/ 2024
    Last Updated:

    The Supreme Court's unanimous verdict overturning the 1998 judgment grants no immunity to lawmakers in bribery cases, marking a significant shift towards eradicating corruption within Indian parliamentary democracy and reinforcing the principles of the Constitution.

    Supreme Court of India

    New Delhi: The Congress on Monday welcomed the Supreme Court verdict in the JMM bribery case, saying that it was desirable to set right the law and should have been done earlier.

    Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said this has been a long pending issue for many years to correct a purely legal issue, which cannot be the law on the text of the Constitution.

    "It is a salutary, desirable, welcome judgement. It is something which sets right the law and it should have been done earlier," Singhvi said, adding that there is no need to go into the facts of the case, because this is not a judgement about the merits of whether anybody did receive a bribe or not.

    "It is a legal issue decided on the assumption that some people did not so vote and some people did vote on the allegation of bribery and whether they can at all be prosecuted, not whether they are convictable or not, on the merits," the Congress leader said.

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    MPs and MLAs taking bribes to vote or make a speech in the House are not immune from prosecution, the Supreme Court said in a landmark, unanimous verdict that overrules its 1998 judgment protecting such lawmakers.

    Singhvi said the judgement which was overturned is a judgement delivered many years ago, which held that if a person receives a bribe to vote in a particular manner and then does so vote, he would get the immunity of the Constitutional articles which protect persons regarding their speech in Parliament.

    Conversely, he said, the same judgement many years ago also held that if a person in fact took a bribe and did not so vote, then he would be exempt.

    "The simple point decided today, which I think was overdue and is rightly decided, is that the two propositions summarised in the earlier judgement are on the face of it against common sense and sound perverse."

    "These provisions of protection to Members of Parliament or an MLA are made for the discharge of their duties and only for those things without which they cannot discharge their duties, and not to give them additional benefits like, for example, receiving bribe," the Congress leader said in a video message.

    Observing that corruption and bribery of members of the legislature erode the foundation of Indian parliamentary democracy, a seven-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud overruled the apex court's five-judge bench's 1998 verdict in the JMM bribery case -- involving five party leaders accepting bribes to vote against the no-confidence motion threatening the P V Narasimha Rao government in 1993.

    "Bribery is not protected by parliamentary privileges," the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna, M M Sundresh, P S Narasimha, J B Pardiwala, Sanjay Kumar and Manoj Misra, said.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the verdict in a post on X. 'SWAGATAM! A great judgment by the Hon’ble Supreme Court which will ensure clean politics and deepen people’s faith in the system,' he said.

    Stating that "corruption and bribery by members of the legislatures erode probity in public life", the apex court held that a five-judge bench's interpretation in the 1998 verdict in the JMM bribery case was contrary to Articles 105 and 194 of the Constitution.

    Articles 105 and 194 deal with the powers and privileges of MPs and MLAs in the Parliament and the legislative assemblies.