The ruling Kerala LDF recently suffered an embarrassing setback in the Supreme Court on a ruling that rejected the government’s request to withdraw the prosecution of six LDF MLAs under IPC and Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act 1984 for allegedly vandalising the assembly in 2015. The opposition UDF is now determined to exploit the SC ruling.
Senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala has written to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan demanding the appointment of a special public prosecutor of Congress’ choice. A public prosecutor usually works on behalf of the government. That would create a conflict of interest in this case. Chennithala has demanded that advocate A Sureshan be appointed.
Sureshan is a well-known public prosecutor in Kerala who has represented the government in many controversial cases. He served the government from 1995 to 2002 in trial courts. “There is a clear case of conflict of interest. A public prosecutor who stood in favour of the government cannot present this case in a free and fair manner,” said Advocate Asif Ali, former director general of prosecution who served in the UDF.
Legal experts have diverse views on the issue of conflict of interest. The appointment of the special public prosecutor also has to be done by the cabinet in which the accused minister K Sivankutty serves as a member.
According to Dr NK Jayakumar, the former secretary to the assembly, the minister has to keep away from the decision-making process. “Quitting the position is an ethical and moral issue rather than a legal one. Legally speaking, the minister has to keep off the meetings in which decisions related to the case are being taken,” he told The Federal.
Chennithala has insisted on the resignation of the minister as a part of the effort to dispense justice. “There is indeed a conflict of interest in the appointment of the public prosecutor who supports the government and is projected to appear in the trial. Therefore we want a special public prosecutor,” he said. “The accused minister has to quit,” he said.
Chennithala said the opposition will take up legal battle if the state government does not yield to the demand for the appointment of a special prosecutor. “Why Advocate A Sureshan? It is his success rate,” said Chennithala.
According to the letter sent to the CM, the government has erroneously granted a ‘no objection’ certificate to the public prosecutor to withdraw from prosecution in the case. “The public prosecutor, without any application of mind, acted as an obedient servant of the government,” said the letter.
The case was registered following a complaint lodged by the legislative secretary on the incidents that occurred in the assembly on March 13, 2015, during the tenure of the UDF government.
The accused, including the current Minister of Education V Sivankutty, had disrupted the presentation of the state budget by the then finance minister K M Mani. Sivankutty had barged into the speaker’s chamber and destroyed property worth ₹2,20,093.
The Supreme Court in the recent judgment dismissed the arguments of the state government and held that the members cannot claim legislative privilege in order to avoid a trial. The case has thus put for trial which would be the first of its kind in the legal history of Kerala.