MLA Bribery: Special Leave Petition Summary (Sita Soren)

Legislative Immunity for Lawmakers Facing Bribery Charges

Article 194(2) of the Constitution of India, 1950 gives immunity to a member of the State Legislature from being prosecuted for any vote casted by them. The petitioner, Sita Soren was accused of taking a bribe for a vote casted in the Jharkhand Legislative Assembly. A complaint was filed to the Chief Election Commissioner of India. A CBI investigation concluded that Sita Soren had received the bribe.

The petitioner was charged with criminal conspiracy under Section 120B and bribery under Section 171E of the Indian Penal Code, 1860; and for criminal misconduct by a public servant under Section 13(1)(d) of The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

The petitioner approached the Jharkhand High Court seeking that the charges against her be quashed due to the immunity granted to members of the State legislature through Article 194(2). The High Court in its order noted that the petitioner did not cast her vote for the person for which she was bribed. Since the exact act for which she received the bribe did not take place, and a direct nexus between voting and the bribe did not exist, the immunity did not apply.

In 2014, Ms. Sita Soren filed an appeal against this order in the Supreme Court.

What does the petitioner seek?

The petitioner prayed for the Court to

  1. Grant a special leave to appeal against the order of the High Court of Jharkhand.


Article 194(2) Requires a Broad Interpretation

The order of the High Court relied on the fact that the petitioner did not cast a vote to the person from whom she had allegedly received a bribe from. Because of this, the High Court held that the immunity under Article 194(2) did not apply, since the bribe had no connection to the vote.

The petitioner highlighted that in P.V. Narsimha Rao v State, the Supreme Court held that Article 105(2) which grants members of Parliament a similar immunity should be interpreted broadly. The Court had held that this broad interpretation was required to ensure that the members of Parliament and State Legislatures could speak their mind without fear of the court.

The Petitioner contended that a similar broad interpretation allows the court to draw a nexus between the alleged bribe and vote casted in connection to it. Therefore, the immunity should be granted to Ms. Sita Soren under Article 194(2) of the Constitution.