The Supreme Court on Monday held that the unruly behaviour of lawmakers inside the Parliament and Assemblies cannot be condoned and they should face trial for destroying public property inside the house. The court was hearing a plea by the Kerala government to withdraw criminal cases against six CPI(M) members in the Assembly ruckus case, which happened in 2015.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah told senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for Kerala government: "What we're trying to tell you is that we cannot condone the behaviour of this kind of MLAs who throws mikes and destroys public property while a Bill is being laid. There has to be a modicum of decorum in legislative bodies."
When Justice Shah asked, "What behaviour are you presenting to the public?" Ranjit responded that he will bring everything on record.
Justice Chandrachud queried further: "What is the larger public interest in shielding an MLA who created a ruckus while a financial bill was being laid?" He emphasised that the presentation of the Finance Bill is of utmost importance.
Advocate Ranjit argued the Kerala High Court had culled out and taken minority views in two cases. As the bench responded that the lawmakers obstructed the budget which was being laid down in the Assembly, Ranjit said "Yes. But he was suspended too" and cited two judgments in defence.
The bench observed that the decision to withdraw the case is taken by the public prosecutor, and not the state government. "State cannot decide if it is to be withdrawn or not. It's only the prerogative of the public prosecutor," it noted.
As Ranjit requested another date in the matter, the bench said that it will keep the matter for next week, telling him: "Until then, if you want to file any additional documents, please do."
After hearing arguments, the bench posted the matter for further hearing on July 15.
The Kerala government had moved the Supreme Court seeking its nod to withdraw cases against CPI(M) leaders, including now Education Minister V Sivankutty, for vandalism in the state Assembly in 2015, when the current ruling party was in the opposition.
The Kerala High Court, in an order passed on March 12, had refused to give its nod, saying that the elected representatives are expected to uphold prestige of the house or face the consequences. The MLAs had vandalised the Speaker's dais, uprooted his chair, pulled out the mike system, computer etc.
The special leave petition filed by the state government said: "When Article 105(3), 194(3) of the Constitution of India confers certain privileges and immunities to the members of the Parliament and state Legislature, is it proper to the Secretary of Legislative Assembly to file cases against the MLAs with regard to an incident that happened on the floor of the House during the protest made by the opposition members, that too without the consent of the Speaker of the Assembly?"
The state government contended that the High Court failed to appreciate the fact that the alleged offences under Section 447 and 427 of the IPC and Section 3(1) of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, happened on the floor of the Assembly during the Budget Session as part of the protest by opposition members against the budget presentation by the then Finance Minister due to the then prevailing political situation, referring to the bar bribery scandal.
The Kerala High Court had dismissed the state's petition against an order of rejection by the Chief Judicial Magistrate's court at Thiruvananthapuram, seeking permission to withdraw prosecution against the accused, including sitting ministers.