Not above law: SC rejects Kerala plea to drop cases against MLAs

Ruckus in Assembly Says act of vandalism can’t be free speech

Not above law: SC rejects Kerala plea to drop cases against MLAs

Photo for representation only. - File photo

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 28

The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed the Kerala Government’s plea for permission to withdraw criminal cases against CPM MLAs who allegedly vandalised the state Assembly in 2015, saying elected representatives were not above law.

“Privileges and immunity are not gateways to claim exemptions from the general law of the land, particularly the criminal law that governs the action of every citizen. To claim an exemption from the application of criminal law would be to betray the trust which is impressed on the character of elected representatives as the makers and enactors of the law,” a Bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud said.

“Consequently, acts of vandalism cannot be manifestations of the freedom of speech and can’t be termed as ‘proceedings’ of the Assembly. It was not the intention of the drafters of the Constitution to extend the interpretation of ‘freedom of speech’ to include criminal acts by placing them under a veil of protest. Hence, the Constitution only grants the members the freedom of speech that is necessary for their active participation in meaningful deliberation without any fear of prosecution,” it clarified.

The order came on the Kerala Government’s petition seeking permission under Section 321 of the CrPC to withdraw cases against CPM leaders, including state Education Minister V Sivankutty, for alleged vandalism on the floor of the state Assembly in 2015, when the party was in the opposition.

The Kerala Assembly had witnessed bedlam on March 13, 2015, as LDF members tried to prevent then Finance Minister KM Mani from presenting the state Budget.

Must have time limit on arguments: SC

Faced with protracted arguments and written submissions running into hundreds of pages, the SC has sought to streamline the process by prescribing a limit on time and number of pages. “How do we dispose of an appeal pending for 10 years? How do we justify to a litigant that suits that began 85 years ago are pending? Some of the current matters are given priority and they go on for hours,” a Bench said. tns

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