The Supreme Court rules in the Assembly ruckus case that legislators do not have immunity from criminal prosecution

New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India dismissed a petition filed by the Kerala government seeking a direction to withdraw cases against prominent Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders for alleged vandalism in the Kerala State Assembly in 2015, when the state’s current ruling party was in opposition.

In its decision, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Chandrahud and including Justice M R Shah, stated that “there is no immunity/privilege that protects legislators from criminal law.”

“There is no merit in the Kerala government’s appeal, and the appeal is dismissed,” said Chief Justice Dhananjaya Chandrachud, who presided over the Supreme Court bench.

On July 15, the apex court’s bench reserved its decision.

While dismissing the appeal, Justice Dr. Chandrachud stated, “Acts of vandalism do not serve a public function or fall under the purview of free speech.”

The Supreme Court stated that dismissing the cases against the accused would be contrary to public justice and policy.

“Vandalism and destruction within the house are not required for exercising legislative function,” the Supreme Court ruled.

It went on to say that the trial court was correct in rejecting the request to withdraw the FIR.

In the judgement, Justice Chandrachud also stated that the members have the necessary privilege to carry out public functions.

He added that MLA privileges have a functional relationship to legislators’ discharge of functions, but it is not a distinguishing feature that elevates legislators to a pedestal.

The Supreme Court stated in its decision that the privileges and immunity are not a sign of status that places them on an unequal footing.

Ranjeet Kumar, a senior lawyer and former Solicitor General (SG), argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of the left party that the then-government was presenting the budget. There were some protests, both party members protested, and a female party member was injured.

“The Legislative Secretary filed a FIR against members of our (Left) party,” Kumar had stated.

Members of the ruling party were equally to blame. Kumar had told the Supreme Court that it was a fight between two parties and asked for a direction to withdraw cases against prominent CPI(M) leaders for alleged vandalism in the Kerala state Assembly in 2015.

In response, Justice Chandrachud asked Kumar whether it is in the interest of justice to throw objects and damage property in the sanctum sanctorum of a democratic establishment.

“A strong message must be sent, and such behaviour will not be tolerated,” the Supreme Court said during one of its hearings.

The petition was filed in the Supreme Court in response to a March 12, 2021 order issued by the Kerala High Court.

The Kerala High Court dismissed the State’s petition challenging the dismissal by the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s Court of the petition seeking permission to withdraw prosecution against the accused, including certain sitting ministers.

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