SC Upholds Kerala HC’s Judgment in Kerala Assembly Case; Says Privilege and Immunity Are Not a Gateway for Exemption From Criminal Law

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The Hon’ble Supreme Court upheld the Kerala High Court’s decision in upholding the dismissal of permission which was sought by the Public Prosecutor in the Kerala Assembly case and held that vandalism of property cannot be equated to freedom of speech in the House.

Background of the Case

On 13th March, 2015, while the Finance Minister of the State of Kerala was presenting the Budget for the financial year 2015-2016 in the Kerala Legislative Assembly, the accused disrupted the budget presentation and damaged articles such as Speaker’s chair computer, etc. The accused was charged under Sections 447, 427 read with 34 of the India Penal Code, 1860 and Section 3(1) of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984. Later on, the Public Prosecutor had sought permission to withdraw from the prosecution which was refused by the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate on the ground that such withdrawal would give a wrong message to the society. Thereafter, a criminal revision petition was filed by the State of Kerala and the accused before the Kerala High Court, challenging the dismissal of the application filed by the Public Prosecutor. However, the Kerala High Court dismissed the criminal revision petition on the ground that the permission to withdraw “will not aid in the advancement of public justice which is the paramount consideration.”

Thereafter, a special leave petition was filed by the State of Kerala and the accused before the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

Arguments before the Court

The Senior Advocate Ranjit Kumar appearing for the State of Kerala contended that the actions of the accused and other members were protected by the privileges granted to members under Article 112 of the Constitution. According to the Counsel, only the Speaker had the authority to take action with regard to anything done within the house. It was also contended that members from both sides have protested during the incident.

Observations of the Supreme Court

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The bench constituted by Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah observed that “Privileges and immunity are not a gateway to claim exemption from criminal law.” According to the Court, such a claim of parliamentary privileges and immunity is equivalent to the breach of trust of the public.

Court’s Decision

The Hon’ble Supreme Court upheld the Kerala High Court and the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate’s decision in refusing to grant permission for withdrawal to the Public Prosecutor on the ground that there was no merit in the appeal.

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