SC rejects Kerala's plea to cancel criminal cases against MLAs
The Supreme Court of India today dismissed the Kerala government's plea to withdraw criminal cases against several prominent Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders for allegedly vandalizing the State Assembly in 2015. The top court observed that no privilege can be granted to protect lawmakers in criminal cases. Of the six accused, two are still members of the Kerala Assembly.
'Destroying public property not freedom of speech'
A bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah underlined, "Privilege and immunity of legislators is not a gate to claim exemption from criminal law." "MPs and MLAs have to subscribe (and) bear true faith to the Constitution of India...Committing acts of destroying public property cannot be equated to freedom of speech," the bench stated, adding there is no merit in Kerala government's appeal.
'What message are you sending to the public?'
"What message are you sending to the public whom you represent? If they are not held accountable for their unruly and violent acts, there will be no deterrence to this kind of behavior," the court said today. Earlier, the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Thiruvananthapuram and the Kerala High Court had also rejected this application, prompting the state government to move the apex court.
What had happened in the Kerala Assembly in 2015?
The six accused leaders are V Sivankutty, KT Jaleel, EP Jayaranjan, CK Sadasivan, Kunahmed Master, and K Ajith. They had created a ruckus in the Kerala Legislative Assembly in 2015 when they were in the Opposition, by breaking furniture and microphones. They were trying to prevent the then State Finance Minister KM Mani from presenting the Budget, alleging his role in a bribery case.
Opposition demands Sivankutty's resignation as Minister
Notably, Sivankutty - one of the accused - currently serves as the state's Education and Labour Minister. Leaders of the Kerala Congress and other Opposition parties have demanded his resignation at the earliest over the SC order. The Minister, on the other hand, said he accepts the verdict, but ruled out his exit. "We will abide by the apex court verdict...and prove our innocence."