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Thursday, April 25, 2024

SC stays criminal proceedings against Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah, others

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The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the criminal proceedings against Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and others for a protest march organized on February 14, 2022, in Bengaluru demanding the resignation of then Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister K S Eshwarappa over allegations of abetting a contractor’s suicide.

The bench comprising Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra issued notice on the petition filed by the Karnataka CM seeking quashing of the criminal case against him and stayed the further proceedings.

Senior Advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Kapil Sibal, Devadatt Kamat and Sidharth Luthra appeared for Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Ministers Ramalinga Reddy and MB Patil, and All-India Congress Committee (AICC) leader Randeep Singh Surjewala.

Senior Advocate Dr. AM Singhvi said in a democracy, the right to freedom of speech and protest is paramount. He argued that this case cannot stand as it is a case, of unlawful assembly for exercising the right to protest which is totally against Article 19(1). Please see the allegations.

Justice Kumar said the offenses have been kept in the statute books because of the given Article 19(1) a. else whatever disturbances are there on roads we will have to quash. Your argument is, if politicians do it has to be quashed.

He remarked that all these judgments you are citing, are the ones which the politicians have filed. Did you seek permission for this demonstration? You cannot go one fine morning and assemble in thousands and say nothing can happen to us because we are protesting.

The bench after hearing the arguments of the senior advocates passed its order. The bench said, “we heard senior counsel pleas challenging a common order of the High Court that declined to favourably consider quashing of proceedings pending before special MP/MLA court.

Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra interrupted saying, No order under Karnataka Police Act.

The bench said the counsel for the petitioner draws attention to the relevant part of the chargesheet to point out that the accused were protesting and shouting slogans on public roads against the political dispensation in Karnataka State and they have said allegations and necessary ingredients made out for 144 IPC.

“It is contended that public order has to be affected, and at best it is a case of law and order, and political profession conducted peacefully without criminal intent cannot be muzzled by penal provisions. It is argued that the High Court should have granted relief, the bench said.

The bench stayed the proceedings of the order against the petitioners till further orders and issued a notice, returnable in 6 weeks.

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