The Supreme Court on Monday criticised the MLAs belonging to the Left Democratic Front during the presentation of the 2015 Budget in the Kerala Assembly, saying that their behaviour at that time was unacceptable, reported Live Law.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrahcud and MR Shah made the observation on a plea filed by the LDF government seeking the withdrawal of criminal cases against six Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders for causing ruckus and vandalism in the Kerala Assembly in 2015. The LDF was the opposition party then.
“Prima facie, we have to take a strict view,” Justice Chandrachud told senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, who was appearing for the state government. “This sort of behaviour is unacceptable. We will not condone this sort of behaviour of an MLA who destroyed public property. You have to face trial.”
Kumar said that the Speaker had suspended the MLAs concerned for their behaviour. He also submitted that the criminal prosecution for their acts inside the Assembly was unwarranted, as it was dealt in accordance with the rules of the House.
On March 13, 2015, Opposition leaders were protesting then Finance Minister KM Mani’s alleged involvement in a scandal related to corruption in granting bar licences, reported The Indian Express. The protest had turned violent with nine people sustaining injuries. The Speaker’s chamber was vandalised and electronic equipment destroyed. However, Mani, protected by the Assembly security staff and United Democratic Front legislators, had managed to table the Budget.
Six CPI(M) members were booked under sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act for vandalism in the Assembly. Of the accused, V Sivankutty is currently the education minister. KT Jaleel and EP Jayarajan were ministers in the previous LDF government. Other accused are K Ajith, CK Sahadevan and K Kunhammed.
A Chief Judicial Magistrate court in Thiruvananthapuram had refused to allow the state government to withdraw the cases against the leaders. The state government had then approached the Kerala High Court against the order but it had dismissed the plea in March this year. The government then filed a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court against the High Court’s decision.
During the hearing, Justice Chandrachud said that the MLAs concerned have to face trial under the Prevention of Damage to Public Properties Act. He asked the state government what public interest was in the application to withdraw prosecution under Section 321 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The section says that the public prosecutor or assistant public prosecutor in charge of a case may, with the consent of the court, at any time before the judgement is pronounced, withdraw from the prosecution of any person either generally or in respect of any one or more of the offences for which he is tried.
Kumar told the court that MLAs were protesting as Mani was facing corruption charges.
“Irrespective of the personality of the finance minister, presentation of finance bill is of utmost importance,” Justice Chandrachud said.
“They have the right to protest,” said the state’s counsel. To which, Justice Chandrachud responded: “Not in this manner”.
Justice Shah said that the MLAs, who are the representatives of the people, have to give a message to society. “What message are you giving with this sort of behaviour?” Justice Shah asked.
The bench then adjourned the hearing to next week and asked the state’s counsel to place on record the decisions he is relying on to establish legislative privileges, the rights of the Legislature for effective discharge of their legislative functions.
In its petition, the state government had said that the High Court did not consider that the 2015 incident had happened when the Assembly was in session and that cases cannot be registered against MLAs without the sanction of the Speaker for incidents happening on the Floor of the House, reported Bar and Bench.
“The FIR registered by the Secretary Legislative Assembly without the consent of the Speaker is wrong...the act of the accused persons being in relation to their function to protest as members of the legislative assembly the MLA’s who are accused in this FIR had entitled to get protection under the Constitution,” the petition said.