The Supreme Court in a landmark verdict dismissed the Kerala government’s Special Leave Petition (SLP) to withdraw the criminal case against Education Minister V Sivankutty, former higher education minister KT Jaleel, and four LDF leaders, saying the accused MLAs must face trial.
Privileges and immunity are not a mark of status which makes them stand on an unequal footing, the top court said.
Slamming the Kerala government, the SC said that the act of the accused MLAs crossed constitutional limits and will not be covered under the immunity granted to lawmakers by the Constitution from criminal prosecution for acts done on the floor of the house.
The judgment was delivered by a Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah.
Pronouncing the verdict, Justice DY Chandrachud said that members are required to stay true to their oath and immunity is to help them discharge their functions freely.
However, destruction of property cannot be regarded as essential to carry out their functions and it cannot be seen as part of rights and privileges, he added.
‘MLAs do not stand above the general principles of criminal law’
“We cannot miss the wood for the trees. MLAs do not stand above the general principles of criminal law and do not enjoy any immunity for such acts,” the apex court said.
Committing destruction of property cannot be equated to freedom of speech in the House, the SC said adding that allowing the withdrawal application under these circumstances would amount to interference with the normal course of justice for “illegitimate reasons”.
“We have also held that the Public Prosecutor is duty-bound to act independently. When an application under Section 325 of CrPC is filed by PP, it should be seen that it is not extraneous to the vindication of the law. In the instant case, it is so,” Live Law quoted the apex court as saying.
On March 12, 2021, the Kerala High Court had also dismissed the petition filed by the state government 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.
Read Judgement here: