Karnataka High Court on Monday stayed the state government order dated August 31, 2020 in which it has granted the permission to drop the criminal prosecution in 61 cases against elected representatives and ministers.
The Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Vishwajith Shetty has stayed the state government notification sending a strong message against political interference in the prosecution of MLAs and MPs.
The court observed, “We direct that no further steps shall be taken on the basis of (government) order dated August 31, 2020.”
The division bench was hearing a petition filed by an NGO, People Union of Civil Liberties, Karnataka challenging BS Yeddyurappa-led state government order of August 31 where it had granted the permission to withdraw the 61 criminal cases against BJP ministers and MLAs under Section 321 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
The High Court bench has directed the state government to file its statement of objections to the petition by January 22, 2021 and posted the matter for further hearing on January 29, 2021.
The petitioner mentioned that the cases being withdrawn include against the state law minister JC Madhuswamy, Tourism Minister CT Ravi and Agriculture Minister B C Patil.
In the previous order, Karnataka High Court stated, “No court is bound by such a decision taken to withdraw from the prosecution. Even if an application is made under Section 321 of CrPC, the Courts are duty bound to assess whether prima facie case is made out or not and that the Court has power to reject the prayer.”
The bench also stated that a public prosecutor cannot act like a post box or submit to the diktats of the government when the executive directs withdrawal of criminal cases against lawmakers. “The prosecutor should act objectively as he/she is an officer of the court,” the court said.
The court also cited the Supreme Court order in the SK Shukla & Ors vs State Of UP & Ors case stating, “It is held that even if government instructs to the Public Prosecutor to withdraw from the prosecution of a case, the latter after applying his mind to the facts of the case may either agree with the instructions and file a petition before the court stating grounds of withdrawal or disagree therewith having found a good case for prosecution and refuse to file the withdrawal petition. It is further observed that the Public Prosecutor cannot act like a post box or act on the dictates of the State Government and he has to act objectively as he is also an officer of the court.”
The Cabinet on August 31, 2020 gave a nod for withdrawing prosecution in 61 cases against the ministers and MLAs. “The Government has granted permission for the withdrawal of prosecution of the 61 cases mentioned in the annexure under the section 321 of CrPC. The Director, Department of Prosecutions and Government Litigation is suggested to take appropriate steps to file necessary applications before the concerned Courts where the 61 cases, mentioned in the Annexure is pending, for their withdrawal,” stated the August 31 Karnataka government order.