A court in Kerala on Wednesday framed charges against education minister V Sivankutty and other leaders of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the 2015 Assembly ruckus case.
The case relates to the violent incidents unfolded in the assembly on March 13, 2015 after Opposition LDF legislators tried to prevent then finance minister KM Mani from presenting the budget alleging his role in a bar bribery case. The session was live when the violence unfolded and property worth ₹2.2 lakh was destroyed in the ruckus.
Thiruvananthapuram chief judicial magistrate (CJM) read out the charges to Sivankutty, Left MLA K T Jaleel and former MLAs K Ajith, C K Sadasivan and K Kunhammed as five of the six accused appeared before the court on Wednesday after the judge issued an ultimatum to them. Last month, the high court dismissed their discharge plea and directed them to appear before the trial court.
However, ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) convener E P Jayarajan failed to turn up citing ill health.
All the six accused are facing charges under sections 447 (criminal trespass), 427 (mischief causing damage), read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 3(1) of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property (PDPP) Act.
The court has adjourned the case to September 26.
In the court, all the five accused denied the charges against them .
“It is a politically-motivated case. We will fight it out legally,” said minister V Sivankutty after coming out of the court.
He came to the court in his official car and many criticised it. The accused filed several revision and special leave petitions to delay the trial but courts refused to entertain them forcing them to appear in person.
A case was registered at the instance of then Speaker N Sakthan. In the video V Sivankutty was seen climbing over tables and others destroying the mike and furniture of the House. Then Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan was seen prodding left legislators to avert presentation of the budget. Two women MLAs from the Opposition camp filed a complained that they were pushed around and their modesty was insulted. Police filed a case against two Congress legislators A A Waheed and A T George. Interestingly, K M Mani’s party, Kerala Congress (M), later crossed over to the LDF camp after his death.
After the CPI(M)-led left front came to power in 2016, it tried its best to withdraw the case but the court rejected it. The government invoked the privilege of legislators and public interest to justify its decision but the high court rejected it saying privilege was not a licence to unleash violence in the House.
In July 2021 the Supreme Court also upheld the lower court verdict and questioned the position of the government in such a case. The apex court said acts of destruction of public property cannot be equated with either the freedom of speech of the legislator or with forms of protest legitimately available to the members of Opposition. It also rejected the government’s contention that the Speaker was the last word as far as legislative proceedings were concerned.