Assembly ruckus is not freedom of speech, says SC

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By Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  Privileges and immunities are not gateways to claim  exemptions from the general law of the land, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled while refusing to allow the withdrawal of criminal prosecution against six CPI(M) members in the Kerala assembly ruckus case of 2015.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah said, “To claim an exemption from the application of criminal  law  would  be to betray the trust which is impressed on the character of  elected  representatives as the makers and enactors of the law.”

“Acts of vandalism cannot be said to be manifestations of the freedom of speech and be termed as proceedings of the Assembly,” the court held. The State of Kerala and the accused persons had raised an argument that the criminal prosecution was not sustainable against the members for acts committed in the floor of the assembly as they are protected by legislative privileges under Article 194 of the Constitution.

“The purpose of bestowing privileges and immunities to elected members of the legislature is to enable them to perform their functions without hindrance, fear or favour,” the court held.“It is to create an environment in which they can perform their functions and discharge their duties freely that the Constitution recognizes privileges and immunities.

These privileges bear a functional relationship to the discharge of the functions of a legislator. They are not a mark of status which makes legislators stand on an unequal pedestal,” the bench held adding that acts of vandalism cannot be equated with freedom of speech.



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