Legislators Legal Immunity under Article 105(2) and 194(2)

Legislators Legal Immunity under Article 105(2) and 194(2)

News: Recently, the Supreme Court referred to a seven-judge bench the question of whether legislators’ legal immunity under Article 105(2) and 194(2) of the Constitution shields them from criminal prosecution for offering or accepting a bribe.

Background:
• PV Narasimha Rao vs. State Case - In its 1998 ruling, the top court had held that legislators have immunity against criminal prosecution on bribery charges for any speech or vote in Parliament.
• Case of Sita Soren - The matter began when, a member of Jharkhand politics, Sita Soren was accused of taking a bribe in exchange for her vote in the 2012 Rajya Sabha elections. However, seeking protection under Article 194(2) & Article 105(2) - She asked for her case to be dropped. But after receiving negative results from the Jharkhand High Court in 2014, she approached the Supreme Court.
• Judgment by the Supreme Court - In 2019, a Supreme Court Bench suggested that it should be heard by more judges (a larger Bench) because it relates to the 1998 Narasimha Rao decision. And now the top court called for the need of a seven-judge Bench for a fresh look under Article 105(2) and Article 194(2).

Understanding legal immunity:
• Article 105 - It deals with the “powers, privileges, etc. of the Houses of Parliament and of the members and committees thereof”.
• Article 105(2) states that no member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof, and no person shall be so liable in respect of the publication by or under the authority of either House of Parliament of any report, paper, votes or proceedings.
• In cases where a member oversteps or exceeds the contours of admissible free speech, the Speaker of the House will deal with it.
• Article 194(2) - It extends the Article 105(2) immunity to MLAs and states, In the present case, the court has to decide if the legal immunity enjoyed by parliamentarians extends to prosecution for demanding or taking a bribe.

Conclusion
• Provisions of both Article 105(2) and 194(2) do not seek to provide higher privileges in terms of immunity from application of general law of the land but it seeks to MP’s and MLA’s can discharge their duties without any fear. 

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