The supreme court, on march 4, made a landmark decision overturning the 1998 PV narasimha Rao verdict related to bribery and vote-taking cases involving Members of parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs). A bench of seven judges, led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, unanimously declared that MPs and MLAs are not exempted from prosecution in cases of bribery associated with voting or delivering speeches in the House.

The 1998 PV narasimha Rao verdict, which had granted immunity to MPs and MLAs from prosecution in bribery cases related to their parliamentary votes, was firmly rejected by the supreme Court. The court expressed disagreement with the previous decision and emphasized that elected representatives cannot be shielded from legal action in bribery matters related to their parliamentary duties.

The context of the 1998 verdict revolves around the aftermath of the 1991 lok sabha elections, held after the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. In those elections, the congress Party secured 232 seats but fell short of the majority figure of 272. PV narasimha Rao, an unexpected candidate, emerged as the Prime Minister. The subsequent no-confidence motion in 1993, triggered by economic liberalization in 1991 and the babri masjid demolition in 1992, further set the stage for a complex political scenario.

In 1993, a no-confidence motion was brought against the Rao government, which successfully survived the vote with 251 votes in favour. However, three years later, a scandal involving the exchange of currency notes for votes by 10 MPs from jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and Janata Dal came to light. This led to cases being registered against JMM MPs, including Shibu Soren, Suraj Mandal, Simon Marandi, and Shallendra Mahato, for allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for their votes.

The 1998 supreme court verdict, based on Article 105(2) of the Constitution, asserted that no mp could be held liable in any court for their parliamentary votes. The decision resulted in the dismissal of all cases against the implicated MPs. However, the recent overturning of this verdict by the supreme court indicates a significant shift in the legal interpretation of the immunity granted to MPs and MLAs in bribery cases related to their parliamentary functions.

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