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P.V. Narasimha Rao vs State(Cbi/Spe) on 17 April, 1998
CITATION(1998) 8 SCC (Jour) 1


The Congress (I) Party was fourteen members short of a majority and, as a result, formed a minority government led by P.V. Narasimha Rao. On July 28, 1993, the aforementioned government faced a No Confidence Motion. Somehow, it was able to reject the motion by obtaining the backing of 265 members as opposed to 251 votes. A member of the Rashtriya Mukti Morcha named Ravinder Kumar filed a complaint (FIR) with the “CBI” claiming that a criminal conspiracy was hatched as a result of which some Jharkhand Mukti Morcha members of Parliament and some others loyal to Janta Dal (Ajit Singh Group) agreed to accept bribes from P.V. Narasimha Rao and others in order to cast votes against the motion of no confidence. Under Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, a criminal prosecution was brought against the MPs who accepted and gave bribes. The Special Judge cognizances the offenses of criminal conspiracy and bribery.


  • The accused persons objected before the Special Judge, arguing that the trial would not be allowed under Article 105(2) of the Constitution because it involved issues pertaining to the privileges and immunities of the House of Parliament (Lok Sabha) and its members, as the charge sheets’ basis is the allegation that certain MPs accepted bribes in exchange for their votes against the “No Confidence Motion.” 
  • The Special Judge denied the aforementioned argument, and stated that the accused parties are not being prosecuted for exercising their right to vote; rather, they are being prosecuted for the alleged offense of demanding and accepting illegal gratification in exchange for exercising their right to vote in a particular way while holding public office, which is punishable under the 1988 Act.
  • Another argument made before the Special Judge was that, for the purposes of the 1988 Act, a Member of Parliament is not a public servant. As a result, providing and receiving the alleged illegal gratification does not constitute an offense under those provisions. The Special Judge dismissed the aforementioned argument, holding that the Delhi High Court’s ruling in the L.K. Advani v. Central Bureau of Investigation cases—in which it was decided that a Member of Parliament is a public servant.
  • Petitioner failed to get desired judgment from a special judge and Delhi High Court. He moved to the Supreme Court.


  • Does Article 105 of the Constitution confer any immunity on a Member of Parliament from being prosecuted in a criminal court for an offence involving offer or acceptance of bribe?
  • Is a member of parliament exempt from the 1988 Act’s provisions because, (a) in accordance with Section 2(c) of the Act, he does not meet the definition of a “public servant” (b) and is not a person covered by Clauses (a), (b)? 
  •  Section 19 (1) is there no authority competent to grant sanction for his prosecution under the 1988 Act?
  • Is the accused be tried for criminal conspiracy under section 120 (b) of Indian Penal Code 1860?


  • The appellants’ learned senior counsel, Shri P.P. Rao, Shri D.D. Thakur, and Shri Kapil Sibal, have argued that, taking into account the objective of the immunity granted under clause (2) of Article 105, which is to guarantee a member of Parliament’s complete freedom when speaking or voting in the House or its committees, the aforementioned provision should be interpreted broadly to allow the member to exercise his or her rights without fear of facing legal action in a court of law for anything he or any committee has said or voted on. 
  • It has been argued that the immunity from liability granted to a member of Parliament under clause (2) of Article 105 would, consequently, cover prosecution of the member on charges of accepting a bribe in order to make a speech or cast a vote in the House or any committee, as well as charges of conspiring to do so. 
  • Therefore, there cannot be a criminal conspiracy charge related to the offer and acceptance of a bribe, nor can the member receiving the bribe or the one making the bribe be prosecuted. The Court of Queen’s Bench’s ruling in Ex parte Wason, the ruling of the United States Supreme Court (Harlan J.) in Johnson, and the dissenting opinions of Brennan J. and White J. in Brewster have all been heavily relied upon.
  • It has been argued that the powers, privileges, and immunities enjoyed by Members of Parliament in India are the same as those enjoyed by Members of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom because Parliament has not passed a law defining the powers, privileges, and immunities of each House of Parliament..


  • The aforementioned immunity cannot be expanded to shield a Member from prosecution if they have accepted bribes or engaged in bribery schemes in order to speak or vote in the House or any of its committees.
  • The argument is that Article 105’s clause (2) must be interpreted to ensure that immunity granted under the clause is limited to the lawful actions of a member of Parliament and cannot be used to secure immunity against any criminal acts committed by the member in order for the member to speak or vote in Parliament or any committee therein.
  • As we read Ex Parte Wason, we learn that the Court of Queen’s Bench determined that Wason wanted criminal charges to be brought against three members of Parliament for allegedly making false statements and conspiring to do so in order to harm his cause. The Court concluded that criminal charges could not be brought in relation to statements made by members of Parliament in Parliament or for allegedly conspiring to do so.
  • On the other hand, in Ex parte Wason, all three of the accused conspirators were Parliamentarians, and the accusations made against them were that they had lied before Parliament as a result of a conspiracy. Article 105(2) protects Indian Parliament members from prosecution if the allegations against them are that they voted in Parliament or made false statements as part of a conspiracy. This means that there would be no need to investigate the privileges the House of Commons enjoys under Article 105(3).


Supreme Court decided the case with a split judgment of 3:2, according to Justice Barucha, who wrote the majority ruling on the behalf of himself and Justice Rajendra Babu, bribe takers who voted against the no-confidence motion were not subject to criminal prosecution under Article 105(2). Justice Barucha cited the Article’s intended purpose when he stated that MPs should be able to express their right to free speech in Parliament without worrying about facing legal repercussions and that their votes should be viewed as an extension of that freedom. He maintained that the wording “in respect of” in the Article should be given a “broad meaning” in order to safeguard MP independence from any civil or criminal procedures that may be related to whatever they have said or voted on in Parliament. Ajit Singh, however, did not receive the same protections from the court because he had not spoken or voted. Furthermore, it declined to provide bribers with any protections. Justice G N Ray concurred in his concurring opinion, interpreting Article 105(2) in this manner.

The dissenting opinion was written by  S.C. Agarwal on behalf of himself and Justice Dr. A.S. Anand. This view would later play a significant role in the recent decision by the supreme court to reverse the 1998 decision. Judge Agarwal noted that the goal of Article 105(2) is not to elevate legislators above the law by shielding them from punishment for bribery charges. Concentrating on the same “in respect of” clause, Justice Agarwal contended that the majority’s reading would lead to an “anomalous situation.” According to him, in such circumstances, Members of Parliament would not be punished for bribery if they fulfilled the requirements of the bribe; otherwise, they would not face any charges. In order to shield the legislator from any civil or criminal culpability that may arise from the statement or vote made, Justice Agarwal suggested that the phrase “in respect of” be read as “arising out of.” 


Rajya Sabha “Parliament has to enact laws. We enact laws with specific goals in mind. We speak in a specific language. We believe that an MP or an MLA will be covered in this way, based on our assessment, our best judgment, and the best counsel we can find. While we are drafting legislation, we are only able to say this. We think the courts will agree with our interpretation. If you disagree with our reading, please let us know where the bill needs to be improved and how the language should be changed”

“An MP who has taken a bribe and did not cast his/her vote could be prosecuted, but the MP who has taken the bribe and voted in the parliamentary proceeding is immune from prosecution”. The judgment is not good for democracy as it gives the MPs an immunity from any criminal charges even if he/she takes a bribe. The basic idea of democracy is that the person I am voting for, will work in good faith and in the welfare of the people. The core concept of democracy is destroyed when the candidate takes a bribe for voting for certain parties other than himself. The offence of bribery is complete when the person has taken the bribe, it is irrelevant for the law that the person actually voted in parliament or not.

This particular case misses the above arguments related to immunity in Article 105(2) and 194(2), there is a need to relook the judgment so the faults which are arising will be considered.


This case involved the matter of immunity and privileges of the member of the parliament which covers under Article 105(2) and 194(2), the MP has allegedly has taken the bribe for voting the certain parties to save it from “no confidence motion” the question before the Supreme Court is that the voting is a privilege which cannot be questioned in the court of law, but if the member has taken the bribe for voting, can it be possible to prosecute that member through court of law. The Supreme Court said that if the member has taken the bribe and did vote in the parliament it is immune from getting prosecuted by court of law, but if he/she has taken the bribe and did not vote in the parliament he can be prosecuted. 

The P.V. Narasimha Rao judgment is overruled in the recent case of Sita Soren V. Union of India.


This article is written by Arsalan Azmi student of Asain Law College, Noida : intern at Legal Vidhiya.

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