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Supreme Court’s Landmark Ruling Ends Impunity for Lawmakers in Note-for-Vote Scandal

Supreme Court's Decision Sets Precedent, Impacts JMM Leader Sita Soren and Future Bribery Cases.

The Supreme Court has dealt a significant blow to lawmakers embroiled in the note-for-vote scandal, overturning a precedent set in 1998 and signaling an end to impunity for political figures involved in bribery cases. The ruling, announced by a seven-member bench led by Chief Justice D.W. Chandrachud, directly affects Sita Soren, leader of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), and sends a strong message about accountability in Indian politics.

In a pivotal move, the Supreme Court on Monday reversed its previous decision, diverging from the judgment established in 1998. This landmark decision underscores that lawmakers cannot seek relief in bribery cases, emphasizing that parliamentary privileges do not shield politicians from corruption charges. The court’s assertion aligns with constitutional principles outlined in Articles 105 and 194, clarifying that accepting money for votes falls outside the scope of legislative duties.

The ruling has immediate repercussions for Sita Soren, who had sought relief regarding allegations of accepting bribes and casting votes during the 2012 Rajya Sabha elections while serving as a legislator. The Supreme Court’s stance, irrespective of whether the bribe recipient voted according to the giver’s wishes, sets a new standard for accountability among elected officials.

The decision marks a departure from the 1998 ruling, where relief was granted to elected representatives involved in bribery cases. In the landmark P.V. Narasimha Rao vs. CBI case, the Supreme Court had provided immunity to JMM MPs who accepted bribes under the Corruption Prevention Act. However, the latest ruling signals a paradigm shift, emphasizing the overarching importance of integrity and ethical conduct in the political sphere.

As the Indian judiciary reaffirms its commitment to upholding the rule of law, the Supreme Court’s decision serves as a precedent for future bribery cases and sends a clear message that no one, regardless of their political stature, is above accountability and justice.

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