The Supreme Court held that lawmakers cannot indulge in criminal acts on the Parliament or Assembly floors and then take cover behind the right to free speech.
- The court refused the Kerala government’s plea to withdraw prosecution of top Left Democratic Front (LDF)leaders accused of vandalism and wanton destruction of public property on the Assembly floor during a Budget speech in 2015.
- Acts of vandalism cannot be said to be manifestations of freedom of speech and be termed as ‘proceedings’ of the Assembly.
- It was not the intention of the drafters of the Constitution to extend the interpretation of ‘freedom of speech’ to include criminal acts by placing them under a veil of protest.
- Legislators cannot unleash violence, run riot in Parliament or a Legislative Assembly and then claim parliamentary privilege and immunity from criminal prosecution. Parliamentary privileges and immunities are not “gateways” for legislators to claim exception from the law of the land, especially criminal law.
- The court explained that the purpose of bestowing 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.