Karnataka HC seeks details of govt withdrawal of prosecution against former or sitting legislators

The Karnataka High Court on Monday asked the state government to provide details of cases dropped against sitting or former MPs or MLAs in the state after September 16, 2020. This comes in the wake of a Supreme Court order last week barring states from dropping cases against MLAs and MPs without clearance from the high courts.

A division bench led by Chief Justice Abhay Sreeniwas Oka sought the details in the course of disposal of a petition filed against an August 31, 2020 order of the state government to withdraw 62 cases.

Of these, as many as 21 cases involving communal violence and violence linked to cow protection were dropped by courts in Karnataka between October 2020 and December 2020 based on the BJP government’s order benefitting 205 members of Hindutva groups, BJP MP from Mysuru Prathap Simha and 106 Muslims.

Prosecution was dropped on the basis of requests by the Law Minister, J C Madhuswamy, BJP MLA from Bhatkal Sunil Naik and Animal Husbandry Minister Prabhu Chavan, among others. The cases were dropped despite written objections related to each case by the state police, prosecution and legal departments.

“As directed by the apex court, the legality of the action of the state government taken after September 16, 2020 of withdrawal of prosecutions against the sitting or former Members of Parliament or Members of Legislative Assembly will have to be considered and examined,” the court said.

J C Madhuswamy sought dropping of 13 cases related to Hunsur region of Mysore district between 2015 and 2018. This included an incident in December 2017, when BJP MP Prathap Simha allegedly drove his jeep into a police barricade that was erected as part of efforts to regulate a Hanuman Jayanti procession in the communally sensitive Hunsur town.

A Hunsur court dropped the charges against the BJP MP on October 10, 2020, based on the August 31, 2020 order. Simha had been accused of disobeying a public order by the police, rash driving, preventing a public servant from doing his duty and voluntarily hurting a public servant.

While dropping the case against Simha, the court noted that “the state government has withdrawn the case”.

The Supreme Court in an order dated August 11, in the case of Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay vs Union of India and another, stated that “no prosecution against a sitting or former MP/MLA shall be withdrawn without the leave of the High Court”.

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