In a setback for Kerala's ruling LDF, a Thiruvananthapuram court on Wednesday, October 13, dismissed the discharge petitions filed by General Education Minister V Sivankutty and five others in the 2015 Assembly ruckus case. Dismissing the petitions, the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Thiruvananthapuram directed the minister and five other accused to appear before it on November 22 to frame charges.
Besides Sivankutty, the other accused in the case are former Ministers EP Jayarajan, KT Jaleel and K Ajith, CK Sadasivan and K Kunhammed, all opposition MLAs part of LDF then. Both Sivankutty and Jaleel are currently members of the State Legislative Assembly. Reacting to the court order, Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly VD Satheesan said Sivankutty has lost the moral right to continue as minister.
Urging the minister to quit, the Congress leader said the court rejected their petitions considering the visuals of Sivankutty and others destroying public property by climbing on the desk in the Assembly.
The trial court in September last year had rejected the LDF government's plea for withdrawing a case related to the ruckus in the state assembly, saying allowing it would send a wrong message to society.
The petition was filed by the government seeking withdrawal of the case registered under sections 447 (criminal trespass), 427 (mischief causing damage), read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sec 3(1) of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property (PDPP) Act during the previous Oommen Chandy-led UDF government.
Subsequently on July 28, the Supreme Court dismissed the Kerala government's plea for withdrawal of the case against the six LDF leaders, saying privileges and immunities "are not gateways" to claim exemptions from criminal law which governs the action of every citizen.
The apex court had also said that committing acts of destruction of public property cannot be equated with either freedom of speech in the legislature or with forms of protest legitimately available to the members of the Opposition.
The assembly had witnessed unprecedented scenes on March 13, 2015 as the LDF members, then in opposition, tried to prevent then Finance Minister KM Mani, who was facing charges in the bar bribery scam, from presenting the state budget.
Besides flinging the speaker's chair from the podium, electronic equipment like computers, keyboards and mikes on the desk of the presiding officer were also allegedly damaged by the then LDF members, causing a loss of Rs 2.20 lakh.