If the Supreme Court’s observations in the 2015 Kerala Assembly ruckus case are anything to go by, the Pinarayi Vijayan government is on the verge of suffering another embarrassment at the hands of the top court. During the arguments on the government’s petition for permission to withdraw the criminal case registered against six LDF legislators for the violence in the state Assembly on Budget day in 2015, the court said there was no logic in the demand and asked what the public interest was in allowing those who destroyed public property to go unpunished. As per the FIR, the six MLAs—two of them, including general education minister V Sivankutty, are members of the current Assembly—caused damages worth Rs 2,20,093 by destroying electronic equipment and furniture.
Driven by a clear political motive to protect the accused leaders from prosecution, the government first approached the Thiruvananthapuram chief judicial magistrate and then the Kerala High Court. Both found no merit in its arguments. Now, the SC Bench’s observations need to be considered as a warning that nobody is above the law and the court is committed to ending the practice of destroying public property in the name of protests. By deciding to continue its argument, the state has lost the last chance to withdraw the petition and prevent further damage.
Approaching the SC with appeals even in cases with little chance of success has become a habit for the government. In December last year, the state lost an appeal against the HC order for a CBI probe into the murder of two Youth Congress workers, allegedly by CPM workers. In the same month, the state challenged another HC order allowing 5,000 devotees per day for the Makaravilakku festival at Sabarimala, but it was not taken up for hearing till the conclusion of the pilgrimage season. The latest is the appeal against the HC order imposing a wage cut for government employees who struck work in January 2019. The prudent thing to do is to accept reasonable court directives. Fighting losing battles by engaging high-profile lawyers only drains the exchequer. With a pandemic to control and a slumping economy to rescue, the government has more important jobs to do than being a nuisance litigant.