(Eds: Adds more reactions) Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 22 (PTI) In a major setback to the LDF government in Kerala, a court here on Tuesday rejected its plea for withdrawing a case related to ruckus in the state assembly in 2015 in which two of its ministers and four others, then in opposition, are the accused, saying allowing it would send a wrong message to society.
Chief Judicial Magistrate R Jayakrishnan dismissed the petition of the prosecution seeking withdrawal of the case, holding that he was inclined to presume that the application has been filed without good faith and on external influence.
The opposition Congress and the BJP state unit attacked the government, saying the court's order was a major blow to it, while Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said they would move forward accepting the verdict.
The CJM said the prosecutor has every discretion to file a petition for withdrawing prosecution with the consent of the court, but added that he 'should apply his mind as a free agent uninfluenced by irrelevant and extraneous consideration'.
'Here the accused are members of the legislature and the alleged incident happened in the House during session. So the allegation is very serious. Moreover it is contented that the incident in this case has been telecast by the visual media and print media have published (news about) the incident,' he said in his order.
The petition was filed by the government seeking withdrawal of the case registered under sections 447 (criminal trespass), 427 (mischief causing damage), read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sec 3(1) of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property (PDPP) Act by the previous Oommen Chandy-led UDF government.
The accused in the case are senior cabinet Minister E P Jayarajan, Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel, Left Democratic Front (LDF) leaders K Ajith, V Sivankutty, C K Sadasivan and K Kunhammed, all opposition MLAs then.
The assembly had witnessed unprecedented scenes on March 13, 2015 as the LDF members then in opposition tried to prevent Finance Minister K M Mani, who was facing charges in the bar bribery scam, from presenting the state budget.
Besides flinging the Speaker's chair from the podium, electronic equipment like computers, keyboard and mikes on the desk of the presiding officer were also allegedly damaged by the LDF members.
The LDF government had in 2018 approached the court for withdrawal of the case against its ministers and leaders.
The court, in its order, said privileges were given to members of the state legislature to perform their duty effectively and fearlessly representing their constituencies.
'If permission is granted to withdraw from the prosecution, it is a wrong message given to the society. I am inclined to presume that the application is filed without good faith and on external influence. So I decline to give consent to withdraw from the prosecution against the accused.
In the result, the petition is dismissed,' the court said.
The prosecution had claimed that the assembly is entitled to punish those actions which are offences against the authority or dignity such as disobedience to its legitimate commands.
'It is under the special jurisdictional ambiance of the Speaker of the House concerned. The police officers cannot register a case against the members of the Legislative Assembly without the permission of the Speaker of the Assembly, if the alleged offence is transpired during the session of the House or in the vicinity,' the prosecution had submitted before the court.
Reacting to the judgement, Vijayan said itwas usual that thelegislators fiercely engagein debates inside the House andnormally, such engagements end there itself once the melee settled down.
'The courts always have an independent view on all the matters. After their legal evaluation, sometimes they accept the position of the state government, sometimes not. Whatever, the court order be, we will accept it and move forward. That's the stand of the government,' he told reporters.
Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala said the Congress would fight the case till the accused were punished.
'The order is a blow to the Pinarayi government's misuse of authority. What happened inside the House was a disgrace to democracy,' state BJP chief K Surendran said in a statement.
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