New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday said there is no immunity or privilege to protect legislators indulging in vandalism during a House session.
The ruling by a bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud came as it dismissed the Kerala government’s appeal to withdraw criminal cases lodged against six prominent leaders of the CPI(M) for alleged vandalism during the assembly session in 2015.
The top court held the trial court was right in rejecting the state prosecutor’s plea to withdraw the FIR. It said lawmakers possess privileges that are essential for exercising public functions. “Vandalism and destruction inside the House are not essential for exercising legislative function,” said the bench, also comprising Justice M.R. Shah.
It added: “There is no merit in the Kerala government’s appeal and the appeal stands dismissed.”
Of the six accused in the case, two — V. Sivankutty and K.T. Jaleel — are members of the present assembly. While Sivankutty is the state’s education minister, Jaleel is a former minister. The others — E.P. Jayaranjan, C.K. Sadasivan, Kunahmed Master and K. Ajith — were charged under the prevention of damage to public property act and other provisions.
The Assembly witnessed violence scenes in March 2015, after the six tried to prevent the then finance minister K.M. Mani from presenting the budget, alleging his role in the bar bribery case.
‘Act of vandalism doesn’t come under freedom of speech’
In its judgment, the Supreme Court said it was imperative for the court to scrutinise whether application for withdrawal of a case is made in good faith, and serves public functions. It must also serve public faith and justice.
The act of vandalism does not even come under freedom of speech, the bench said, rejecting the state’s arguments that the six had exercised their constitutional rights by voicing their anger against the then ruling government.
The top court held the privileges of MLA bear a functional relationship to the discharge of his or her duty as a legislator, but immunities are not a mark of status that makes them stand on an unequal footing. “It is a conception that elected representatives stand above the general law,” said the bench.
Noting that withdrawal of cases will be against public justice, the court said MLAs are under constitutional responsibility to discharge duties.
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