Thiruvananthapuram: Rejecting the discharge petitions of General Education Minister V Sivankutty and other LDF leaders in the 2015 Kerala Legislative Assembly ruckus case, a trial court here discarded the arguments of the defendants that the incident was a protest and the media visuals were doctored.
The counsels representing the accused – Sivankutty, K T Jaleel, E P Jayarajan, K Ajith, K Kunhammad and C K Sadasivan – had claimed that they did not break the law. They had argued that their sole aim was to prevent then then finance minister KM Mani from presenting his budget and the reported property damage was a result of pushing and shoving inside the House.
The accused had also claimed that the media had blown the incident out of proportion.
The Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) court Judge R Rekha rejected the pleas citing the provisions of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act under which the case was charged, saying the accused should stand trial. Countering the defence argument that the incident inside the State Assembly was a protest against the presenting of the Budget, Prosecutor Deputy Director Balachandra Menon on behalf of the State submitted that an MLA did not have the right to destroy furniture and equipment bought with the taxpayers' money.
Submitting that the intention of the LDF leaders was to protest and prevent the then finance minister from presenting the State Budget, defence counsel pointed out that the chargesheet had mentioned that the Speaker's chair, computer and microphone were damaged in the melee on the floor of the House on March 13, 2015.
The accused also argued that V S Sunil Kumar, B Sathyan, T M Thomas Isaac and about 20 other MLAs, too, were on the Speaker's dais. The defence also said that the media had exaggerated the incident. It was also argued that the chargesheet had no mention of the electronic engineer who had subjected the electronic panel, said to be damaged, for a chemical test.
The investigators, the defence said, recorded the statements of witnesses after showing them the visuals recorded on a CD.
Countering, the State's counsel said the defence argument does not stand since the hard disk of the House had a timer attached to it, and that it cannot be manipulated.
The discharge petitions were filed by Sivankutty, former ministers EP Jayarajan and KT Jaleel, and ex-MLAs K Ajith, K Kunhammed and CK Sadasivan.
The CJM court had in September 2020 rejected the government's plea to withdraw the case, and ordered that the accused should stand trial. The High Court and the Supreme Court later upheld the trial court order.
CPM to seek legal options
Thiruvananthapuram: While minister Sivankuttty did not comment on the court order, CPM acting State secretary A Vijayaraghavan said the party would seek legal options. The CPM's stand was that to let Sivankutty stand trial while continuing as the minister.
Likely punishment if found guilty
The accused if found guilty are likely to face even a jail term of five years apart from fine.
The crimes and punishment envisaged as per the case are:
•IPC 447 (Punishment for criminal trespass): Three months' imprisonment and a penalty of Rs 500
•IPC 427 (Mischief causing damage to the amount of Rs 50 or upwards): Imprisonment of up to two years and fine
•Prevention of Damage to Public Property (PDPP) Act: A jail term of five years and fine.