NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that "there is no immunity/privilege that protects legislators from the criminal law," while dismissing a petition filed by the Left government of Kerala seeking to withdraw cases against prominent CPI(M) leaders for alleged vandalism in the Kerala Assembly in 2015.
The current ruling party in the state was in the opposition at the time of the incident. The matter came in appeal against the Kerala Order dismissing its plea to withdraw the criminal case lodged against half a dozen Left MLAs for ruckus inside the House in 2015.
The Kerala government's plea was that the Assembly was in session at the time of the vandalism and no crime can be registered "without the previous sanction" of the Speaker, who is the master of the House.
A 2-judge bench of Justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and Mukesh R Shah affirmed in a judgment reserved on July 15 that "right to free speech and privileges of lawmakers do not extend them immunity against criminal law" and "acts of vandalism do not serve public function or come under freedom of speech."
Justice Chandrachud, who penned the ruling, said withdrawal of cases against the accused persons will be against public justice and policy, noting that "vandalism and destruction inside the House (Assembly) is not essential for exercising legislative functions." He underlined that the MLAs possess the privileges that are essential to exercise public functions.
Dismissing the Kerala government's appeal, the court held that the trial court was correct in refusing to withdraw the FIRs registered against the accused. It said destruction of public property cannot be equated with the exercise essential to discharge the functions as members of the House.
In the ruckus in the Assembly on March 13, 2013 to prevent then Finance Minister K M Mani present the state budget, the accused MLAs had up rooted electronic equipment like computers, keyboards and mikes of the Speaker and even flung his chair from the podium.
V Sivankutty, KT Jaleel, EP Jayarajan, Kunhammad Master, CK Sadasivan and K Ajith were named as accused. The High Court had held on March 12 that these MLAs have to face criminal cases.
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