New Delhi, Jul 16(ILNS) The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its judgment on a plea filed by the Kerala government seeking directions to withdraw cases against 6 CPI(M) leaders, including Kerala Education Minister V. Sivankutty, for vandalism inside the state Assembly in 2015, when the current regime was not in power.
A bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah heard Senior Advocate Ranjit Kumar appearing on behalf of State of Kerala, Senior Advocate Mr. Jaideep Gupta on behalf of the accused and Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani on behalf of Ajith Kumar (Intervenor).
Earlier, the Kerala High Court while dismissing the state government plea said, “Here the allegation is of the functioning of the Assembly Session having been disrupted by the members by trespassing into the Speaker’s dais and committing mischief. The aforementioned acts, if proven to be true, can by no stretch of imagination, be deemed to be acts done in furtherance of the free functioning of the house.”
The bench heard Mr. Ranjit Kumar who argued for the withdrawal of prosecution on behalf of the state, however upon instance of Justice M.R. Shah it was noted that the senior counsel was perhaps defending the accused which should not be the role of the state. The senior counsel went on to elaborate his arguments to prove whether the actions of the Mla were performed in the public interest or not. Kumar stated that in the said ruckus, members of both the parties were equally involved and in furtherance, the property of the assembly was destroyed, it was further stated that FIR was registered on an instance of a lady member of then-government who got hurt during the incident.
Justice Chandrachud in turn exclaimed that arguments happen in courtroom as well, in a charged atmosphere, but that does not explain the damage of public property or anything done in the public interest.
Kumar further stated that the government thought that this should not go ahead, there are FIRs from both sides, and to quit this, state wants to take back the prosecution as this is the case of political manifestation. He further argued that the act was covered under the house rules, i.e. legislative privileges. He further argued that the authority to take actions pertaining to conduct in the house vests with the speaker and once the action against the accused has been taken then a criminal prosecution.
Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta appearing for the accused argued that if the public prosecutor believes that it is a political issue and needs no trial at this time, there is lot of politics going around at this time, there is a lot of politics going on around this including involvement of media, in the light of this whether the administration of justice is fine or not is the question.
Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani appearing for intervenor argued that the protection of legislative privileges cannot be claimed for vandalism committed within the house.
“The privilege claimed that the house members have the right to destroy public property, abuse the Speaker and destroy his chair? Is that the privilege claimed? Are such activities adjuncts of free speech? neither such a privilege can be claimed nor such acts are adjuncts of free speech” he submitted.
He further argued that withdrawal application was against the objectives of the Prevention of Damage of Public Property Act. The apex court has reserved the judgment: Six members of CPI(M) were booked under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act for the vandalism in the house. Out of the accused, V Sivankutty is now the Education Minister in the present second term of the LDF government. EP Jayarajan and KT Jaleel, who were ministers in the previous LDF government, CPIM members CK Sahadevan, K Ajith and K Kunhammed are the other accused./ILNS/SNG