SC refuses to accept Kerala govt.’s argument in vandalised Assembly case

The Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File.  

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to accept the Kerala government’s argument that the Speaker and not the police has the authority to take action against the Left Democratic Front (LDF) MLAs who vandalised the Legislative Assembly during the Budget speech in 2015.

“So, let’s say in an extreme case, if an MLA empties his revolver inside the Assembly, can you say the House is supreme on this?” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud retorted at the Kerala government side.

The court was also not convinced by the State government’s line that withdrawal of prosecution against the errant MLAs was in public interest.

“How is it in public interest or in service of public justice to seek withdrawal of prosecution when MLAs have damaged the sanctum sanctorum of democracy?” Justice Chandrachud asked.

Justice M.R. Shah asked why the State government was trying to defend the accused persons in the case.

The court has reserved for judgment the appeals filed by the Kerala government and accused persons, which include Kerala Education Minister V. Sivankutty, against a High Court order which had confirmed a Magistrate’s decision to refuse the Prosecutor permission to withdraw the criminal case.

Televised images from the day of the incident show legislators come to blows on the House floor and hurl chairs, computers and other public property soon after Finance Minister K.M. Mani began his Budget speech during the United Democratic Front government’s tenure. The MLAs are facing charges of criminal trespass, mischief and destruction of public property.

The apex court has consistently taken a strong prima facie view against the conduct of the MLAs. Justice Chandrachud had said these legislators ought to face trial or there would be “absolutely no deterrent to this kind of behaviour”.

During the hearing, the court disagreed with the Kerala government’s view that the then Opposition MLAs were only acting in “public interest” and exercising their “right to protest”.

Appearing for the State of Kerala, senior advocate Ranjit Kumar argued that the legislators’ actions were protected from legal action by Parliamentary privilege. It has contended that the Assembly Secretary should not have complained against the MLAs to the police without taking the prior sanction of the Speaker.

The Public Prosecutor’s application to withdraw the cases was dismissed by the Thiruvananthapuram Chief Judicial Magistrate on September 22, 2020. The Magistrate had concluded that the request was made “without good faith and under external influence”. The High Court confirmed the Magistrate’s decision in March 2021.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 3:08:39 PM |

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