New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday wondered if it is in public interest to damage the sanctum sanctorum of democracy and justify claiming that the house is the supreme authority on the matter.
The top court’s observation came during the hearing of the Kerala government’s plea seeking its nod to withdraw cases against CPI-M leaders, including current Education Minister V. Sivankutty, for vandalism in the Assembly in 2015, when the party was in the Opposition.
As the Kerala government submitted before a bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah that the House has the prerogative to take action against MLAs for creating a ruckus in the Assembly, Justice Chandrachud asked senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, representing the state: “Suppose an MLA whips out a revolver in the Assembly and also empties his revolver. Can you say the house is supreme on this?”
The bench clarified it is not possible to carry a weapon inside the Assembly, but it cited this example to carefully examine the issue before the court.
Justice Chandrachud further asked the Kerala government if it was in public interest or in service of public justice to seek withdrawal of prosecution against the MLAs, who have damaged the sanctum sanctorum of democracy? “Is it justified?” he reiterated.
Going on cite heated arguments between lawyers, often witnessed in the Supreme Court, Justice Chandrachud said: “look at the courts. Tempers are lost.. lawyers opposing each other in court. Would that justify court property being damaged?”
The bench noted the fact of the matter is that all ths is public property and the government is the custodian of the public property.
Justice Shah asked why the government was pursuing the withdrawal application and advancing defence arguments, when it should have been done by the accused. “Is it in public interest?” he asked.
The Chief Judicial Magistrate of Thiruvananthapuram and the Kerala High Court had rejected the withdrawal application. As a result, the Kerala government moved the top court.
Kumar argued that it was ruckus between the political parties and members of the ruling party were equally at fault. Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, representing an intervenor, however, submitted that the protection of legislative privileges cannot be claimed for vandalism committed within the House.
After hearing arguments, the top court reserved the judgment in the matter.
On July 5, the top court had said the unruly behaviour of law makers in Parliament and Assembly cannot be condoned and they should face trial for destroying public property inside the House. The Kerala government has cited privileges and immunity to MLAs and urged the top court to drop cases against the Left leaders.
The Kerala High Court, in an order passed on March 12, had refused to give its nod, saying that the elected representatives are expected to uphold prestige of the House or face consequences. The MLAs had vandalised the Speaker’s dais, uprooted his chair, pulled out mike system, computer etc.