The Supreme Court on Thursday deferred its decision on the Kerala government’s appeal seeking the dismissal of criminal charges against six CPI(M) members in the 2015 assembly ruckus case.
The incident occurred in 2015 when the government was presenting the budget. The opposition was protesting against allegations of corruption levelled against the then-government. The ruckus erupted after a lady member from the opposition was injured in the melee.
A complaint was filed against the ruling party at the instance of a lady member of the opposition.
Ranjit Kumar argued that cases of political character might be dismissed to bring the situation to a halt, citing the Baroda Dynamite decision. In addition, he claimed that the conduct was protected by statutory privileges. The Speaker has the authority to take action in the House on improper behaviour.
The criminal prosecution is superfluous since the Speaker has taken action against them for violation of conduct (they were suspended for a week).
“A protest is also a speech. It is a manner of freedom of speech. The right is given. The breach of code of conduct of House provides for that. Maybe there was breaking of furniture. But it was still a form of speech and a form of protest”,
Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, opposed the petition by saying, “Parliamentary privileges are intended to be enjoyed on behalf of the people in their interests. If you damaged public property out of tax payers money then how can you claim privilege. Privileges are those rights which are necessary for the house to perform its legislative functions. None enjoys any privilege against any criminal proceedings”.
He also said that the withdrawal application was against the objectives of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
On the last hearing date, the bench had made oral observations disapproving the attempt of the state to withdraw the case against the legislators.
Justice Chandrachud had said “Prima facie, we have to take a strict view. This sort of behaviour is unacceptable. We will not condone this sort of behaviour of an MLA who destroyed public property. He added that they have to face trial under the Prevention of Damage to Public Properties Act.”
“What is the larger public interest in shielding an MLA who has obstructed the passage of Finance Bill?”, Justice Chandrachud had asked.
The senior counsel replied, “The Finance Minister was facing corruption charges and they were protesting.”
Justice Chandrachud had responded, “Irrespective of the personality of the Finance Minister, presentation of finance bill is of utmost importance.”
Advocate Ranjit Kumar said “They have the right to protest.”
“Not in this manner”, Justice Chandrachud had retorted.