New Delhi: The Supreme Court said on Monday that it has to take a “strict” view of unruly behaviour of lawmakers in Parliament and Legislative Assemblies as such incidents are “increasing nowadays” and this sort of conduct cannot be condoned.
The apex court, which was hearing pleas relating to a criminal case lodged in connection with ruckus inside Kerala Assembly in 2015 during the previous Congress-led UDF rule, said it must be ensured that decorum is maintained in the House.
“Prima facie, we have to take a very strict view on this kind of behaviour. This kind of behaviour is unacceptable,” a Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and M R Shah said while referring to the incident in Kerala Assembly.
“We must ensure that some decorum is maintained. These are sentinels of democracy,” the bench said, adding, “Such incidents are increasing nowadays. In the parliament also, it is happening and one has to be strict on this”.
One of the pleas was filed by the Kerala government which has challenged the March 12 order of the high court dismissing its petition seeking withdrawal of a criminal case registered in connection with the ruckus inside the state Assembly in 2015.
The state assembly had witnessed unprecedented scenes on March 13, 2015 as LDF members, then in opposition, tried to prevent then finance minister KM Mani, who was facing allegations in the bar bribery scam, from presenting the state budget.
Besides flinging the speaker’s chair from the podium, electronic equipment like computers, keyboards and mikes on the desk of the presiding officer were also allegedly damaged by the LDF members.
The case, which also involves V Sivankutty who is a minister in the state, was registered against a group of then LDF MLAs and others.
During the hearing conducted on Monday through video-conferencing, the apex court referred to the incident in the Kerala Assembly and observed that the MLAs had obstructed presentation of finance budget and such behaviour cannot be accepted.
“We will not condone this kind of behaviour of MLAs who, on the floor of the house, throw mikes and destroys public property,” said the bench, which posted the matter for hearing on July 15.
“They were MLAs and they were representing people,” the bench said, adding, “What message are they giving to the public”.
One has to take strict view on such conduct otherwise there would be no deterrence to this kind of behaviour, it said, adding that those involved in such behaviour should face trial under the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
“This kind of behaviour cannot be condoned,” it said, adding, “What is the larger public interest in shielding an MLA who was obstructing presentation of finance budget in the House.” When one of the counsel said the MLAs were protesting against the then finance minister against whom there were corruption allegations, the bench said irrespective of that, “presentation of finance budget is of utmost importance”.
On the issue of application under section 321 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which deals with withdrawal from prosecution, the bench observed that it is the prerogative of the public prosecutor.
In its plea filed in the apex court, the Kerala government has claimed that high court had failed to appreciate that the alleged incident had occurred while the Assembly was in session and no crime could have been registered “without previous sanction” of the speaker.
“The FIR registered by the secretary Legislative Assembly without the consent of the speaker is wrong and therefore, the application filed under section 321 CrPC is liable to be allowed,” said the plea filed by the state.
The plea has sought a stay on the March 12 order of the high court and also on further proceedings in the case, which is pending before a trial court.
It has said because the act of accused persons being in relation to their function to protest as members of the legislative assembly, the MLAs, who are accused in the FIR, were entitled to get protection under the Constitution.
It said that Article 105(3), 194(3) of the Constitution of India confers certain privileges and immunities to the members of Parliament and state legislature and therefore, it was not proper for the secretary of the Legislative Assembly to file cases against MLAs with regard to an incident which happened on the floor of House during the protest made by opposition members, that too, without the consent of the speaker.
“The allegation in the present case has admittedly happened during the budget session of the Legislature as a part of the protest by opposition members of Legislative Assembly against the budget presentation by the then finance minister due to the then prevailing political reasons,” it said.
The state government had moved the high court against an order of the trial court which had dismissed an application filed by the public prosecutor seeking permission to withdraw from prosecution against the accused in the case.
In its plea filed in the top court, the state has said there was no evidence to show that the application submitted by the public prosecutor was “not in good faith”.
The case was registered for the alleged offences under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including 447 (criminal trespass), and under the provision of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.