Kerala Assembly ruckus: Leaders move Supreme Court against HC dismissal of request to withdraw case

The State government, which has also filed an appeal, has argued that the legislators’ actions in 2015 were protected from legal action by parliamentary privilege.

Political leaders accused of creating a ruckus in the Kerala Legislative Assembly joined the State government in the Supreme Court on Tuesday to challenge a High Court dismissal of a prosecutor’s request to withdraw a case of criminal trespass, mischief and destruction of public property against them.

The accused persons include Education Minister V. Sivankutty and other prominent leaders of the ruling Left Democratic Front in the State. They were accused of vandalism on the Legislative Assembly floor during a Budget presentation in 2015. The televised images showed MLAs coming 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.

As soon as the hearing began, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud started saying “this is a case…” only to stop mid-sentence when senior advocate Jaideep Gupta quickly submitted that he represented the accused persons and had successfully filed a separate appeal in the case, which was numbered by the Supreme Court Registry in the course of the morning. Mr. Gupta urged the Bench to tag his appeal with the main one filed by the Kerala government and adjourn the case for a later date. This would give the court the time to read his appeal too.

In its appeal, the State government has argued that the legislators’ actions in 2015 were protected from legal action by parliamentary privilege.

It said the Assembly Secretary ought not to have complained against the MLAs to the police without taking the prior sanction of the Speaker. Besides offences under the Indian Penal Code, the legislators were booked under the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.

The Public Prosecutor’s application to withdraw the cases was dismissed by the Thiruvananthapuram Chief Judicial Magistrate on September 22, last year. 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.

In its appeal, the State government, represented by advocate G. Prakash, said a Magistrate’s role was limited when the Prosecutor sought withdrawal of the case under Section 321 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. All the Magistrate needed to examine was whether the Prosecutor had applied his mind “independently and properly”.

The reason for the Prosecutor’s decision to seek withdrawal of a case need not be confined to paucity of evidence alone. It could also depend on “other relevant grounds as well as to further broaden the ends of public justice, public order and peace is the settled law”.

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