Legislators indulging in vandalism cannot claim immunity, says SC

Source: The Hindu

 What is the News?

The Supreme Court has rejected Kerala government’s plea to withdraw criminal cases against its MLAs. They were charged for destroying public property and disrupting a Budget speech on the State Assembly floor in 2015.

What was the argument of the Kerala Government?

Kerala Government has argued that the criminal cases against the MLAs was not sustainable as the members are protected by legislative privileges under Article 194 of the Constitution for the acts committed inside the Assembly.

What has the Court said in its judgement?

 On Freedom of Speech:

  • Acts of vandalism cannot be said to be manifestations of freedom of speech and be termed as ‘proceedings’ of the Assembly.
On Privileges and Immunities:
  • The purpose of giving privileges and immunities to elected members of the legislature was to enable them to perform their “essential functions” without hindrance, fear or favour.
  • The ‘essential’ function of the House is collective deliberation and decision-making.
  • These privileges are not a mark of status which makes legislators stand on an unequal pedestal.
  • Moreover, Privileges and Immunities granted to legislators can’t be used to claim exemption from the law of the land.
On Right to Protest:
  • A member of the legislature has a right to protest on the floor of the legislature.
  • But vandalism on the Assembly floor could not be equated with the right to protest.
  • Moreover, no member of an elected legislature can claim either a privilege or immunity to stand above the sanctions of the criminal law, which applies equally to all citizens.
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