Kerala HC Declines To Stay Trial In Assembly Ruckus Case
The Kerala High Court on Friday declined to stay the trial in the 2015 Assembly ruckus case in which General Education Minister V Sivankutty and some other prominent LDF leaders are also among the accused.
Justice Ziyad Rahman A A asked all the accused, including LDF convener E P Jayarajan and Left MLA K T Jaleel, to appear for trial before the magisterial court.
The High Court's decision was welcomed by senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala who has been opposing the Left Front leaders' attempts to get discharged from the case.
In a statement issued by his office, Chennithala alleged that the state government was colluding with the accused to withdraw the case against them and the High Court's decision was a severe blow to such attempts.
The High Court's order also gives strength to his legal battle to prevent the accused from allegedly avoiding the trial in the case, he said in the statement.
The other accused in the case are former Left front MLAs K Ajith, C K Sadasivan and K Kunhammed. The order came on a criminal revision petition moved by them last year against the dismissal of their discharge plea by a lower court in Thiruvananthapuram.
The High Court also said that it will hear their revision petition on September 26. Meanwhile, the accused have been asked by the trial court to appear before it on September 14.
In their plea before the High Court, the accused have said, "It is most respectfully submitted that the petitioners are totally innocent of the allegations raised in the case and the findings in the final report are not supported by any legal evidence and are groundless in toto and even if those groundless allegations/ findings are accepted at its face value, none of the offences is made out against the petitioners."
The petition said none of the then MLAs have filed any complaint regarding the incident and the investigation was done by a CB-CID DySP, based on a letter from the Legislative secretary.
The petition claimed that the report of the investigation was "highly tainted and biased" to project a totally "distorted version of incidents" which happened in the Kerala Legislative Assembly in 2015.
On October 13, last year, in a setback to Kerala's ruling LDF, the Thiruvananthapuram Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) dismissed the discharge petitions filed by the accused in the case, saying the material produced before it by the prosecution disclose a grave suspicion that the accused have committed the offences.
Dismissing the petitions, the CJM also directed the minister and five other accused to appear before it on November 22, 2022 to frame charges.
In its order, the Court had said that the statement of the witnesses recorded by police, DVDs and other documents before the Court disclose that there are sufficient circumstances against the accused to frame a charge against accused 1 to 6.
The trial court in September 2020 had rejected the LDF government's plea to withdraw a case related to the ruckus in the state assembly, saying allowing it would send a wrong message to society.
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.
Subsequently on July 28, 2021, the Supreme Court had dismissed the Kerala government's plea for withdrawal of the case against the six LDF leaders, saying privileges and immunities "are not gateways" to claim exemptions from criminal law which governs the action of every citizen.
The Apex Court had also said that committing acts of destruction of public property cannot be equated with either freedom of speech in the legislature or with forms of protest legitimately available to the members of the Opposition.
The Assembly had witnessed unprecedented scenes on March 13, 2015 as the LDF members, then in the 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, keyboards and mikes on the desk of the presiding officer were also allegedly damaged by the then LDF members, causing a loss of Rs 2.20 lakh.
With PTI inputs