In a setback to the ruling Left Democratic Front, the chief judicial magistrate’s court in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday rejected a discharge petition moved by six legislators including state education minister V Sivankutty in connection with the 2015 assembly violence case.
Rejecting their plea, magistrate R Rekha directed all the accused to appear before the court on November 22 so that charges could be framed and later the court would read out the charges to them. The accused contended that the video of the assembly proceedings was heavily edited and the media had blown the incident out of proportion.
They argued that their sole intention was to disrupt the budget speech and furniture was damaged by the security personnel during pushing and shoving in the assembly. But the court rejected their contention and asked them to face charges. The counsel for the accused said he said he will move the High Court. Earlier the High Court and the Supreme Court had rejected their pleas to dismiss the case.
The assembly had witnessed violent scenes in March 2015 after the then opposition LDF legislators tried to prevent finance minister KM Mani from presenting the budget alleging his role in the bar bribery case. Angry members snapped mikes, threw chairs, destroyed furniture and damaged lights during the ruckus, which also resulted in two legislators landing up in hospital. The session was live when the violence took place and property worth ₹2.20 lakh was destroyed in the melee.
Once the LDF came to power in 2016, it tried to withdraw the case but the court rejected it. The government then moved the high court, which also turned down its plea. The government had invoked the privilege of legislators and public interest to justify its decision to withdraw the case, but the high court rejected it saying privilege was not a licence to unleash violence in the House.
Later in July, the Supreme Court also upheld the lower court’s verdict and directed all accused to face criminal proceedings. 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.
“Privileges and immunities are not a gateway to claim exemption from the general law of the land, particularly as in this case, the criminal law which governs the action of every citizen,” a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah said while pulling up the government. One of the accused legislators V Sivankutty is the state education minister. After the top court rapped the government in July the opposition Congress sought his resignation but the chief minister rejected the demand.