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Opinion

Karnataka HC maintains government order dropping 61 cases against ministers and legislators

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In a significant decision, the Karnataka High Court on Monday ordered the state government not to take any action to drop the cases, several of which involve ministers and BJP leaders. The BJP government led by BS Yediyurappa in the state had decided to withdraw the cases registered mainly against various party leaders in an order dated August 31, 2020.

These included a case against CM himself for violating the electoral model’s code of conduct when in November 2019 he appealed to the Veerashiva Lingayat community to support only the BJP candidate. A case had been filed against him under section 123 (3) of the People’s Representation Act 1951 and section 171 (F) of the IPC.

Other cases included one against the former Minister of Tourism and current National Secretary General of the BJP, CT Ravi, as well as against the Minister of Justice, JC Madhuswamy, for alleged various crimes under Sections 143 (illegal assembly), 147 (riots with dangerous weapons) and 339 (improper restraint) of the IPC during a protest.

The decision to drop the cases was made by the state cabinet in August after a subcommittee headed by Interior Minister Basavaraj Bommai recommended the same. However, the DG & IGP, the director of prosecution and government litigation, as well as the legal department itself, had recommended not to withdraw the cases.

But the cabinet accepted the subcommittee’s recommendation and went ahead with the proposal. The government had then justified the decision to drop the cases by saying that only cases related to public interest protests would be dropped and not personal cases. The state government had also pointed out that the previous congressional government also, when in power, had exercised powers in a similar way.

However, this cabinet decision was challenged by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties and a city defender activist, Sudha Katwa, who had presented PIL. A High Court divisional court chaired by Chief Justice Abhay Oka, who heard the petition, granted interim measures to the petitioners, and ruled that the cases should not be dropped. “We direct that no further action will be taken based on the order dated August 31, 2020.”

At an earlier hearing, the court had asked the state government to submit a compliance report for which the state had requested time. The court ordered the government to file its objection to the latest order by January 22.

While the state government had not yet officially reacted to the HC order, a senior state administration official who did not want to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media said: “We have not yet received a copy of the complete order. We will examine the same and then decide our next course of action. “

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