The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed the Kerala government’s petition seeking to withdraw cases against 6 former LDF MLAs who were charged for vandalism of state assembly in 2015.
The apex court said the criminal prosecution of the legislators will continue, noting that immunity to lawmakers cannot extend to immunity against criminal laws.
While rejecting the plea of the Kerala government to withdraw cases against prominent former LDF leaders, Justice Chandrachud said, “an alleged act of destruction of public property can’t be exercised as essential to discharge functions as members of the house.”
“These privileges bear a functional relationship to the discharge of functions of the legislators, but it is not a mark of difference that places the legislators on a pedestal,” the order passed by the bench comprising of Justices Chandrachud and MR Shah said.
“Privileges and immunity are not a gateway to claim exemption from criminal law and that would be a betrayal to the citizens. The withdrawal application which was filed by the incorrect reading of Article 194,” the order further said. The right to free speech and privileges of lawmakers do not extend them immunity against criminal law.
The case pertains to the vandalism of the Kerala Legislative Assembly by CPM members, who created a ruckus in the House and caused damages to the public property when the budget session was underway in 2015. The Congress-led UDF was in power in Kerala at that time, with Oommen Chandy as the CM.
Kerala govt calls vandalism of Assembly ‘Parliamentary Privilege’, moves SC seeking protection for former MLAs
Earlier this year, the High Court ruled that the six LDF legislators should face trial in the case. In response to this, the Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala moved the apex court seeking permission to withdraw cases against prominent CPM leaders for vandalism at the state assembly in 2015. The government claimed in its petition that it was their parliamentary privilege and not vandalism.
In its plea, the Kerala government in the Supreme Court argued that the budget session of the legislative assembly in 2015 was carried out in a ‘charged atmosphere’ and the allegations of nepotism were levelled against the finance minister and it was during the protests by opposition members that the alleged chaos ensued.
On March 13, 2015, LDF MLAs had created a massive ruckus on the floor of the assembly while the budget session was ongoing. They had climbed over tables, flung chairs from the speaker’s podium, and had damaged mikes, computers and keyboards. The LDF MLAs had also clashed with security personnel who were trying to do their job. Many security personnel had sustained injuries.