In a significant decision, the Karnataka High Court on Monday directed the state government not to take any steps on its move to withdraw cases– several of them involving ministers and BJP leaders. The BS Yediyurappa led BJP government in the state had decided to withdraw cases registered primarily against several party leaders in an order dated August 31, 2020.
These included a case against the CM himself for violating the electoral model code of conduct when in November 2019 he had appealed to the Veerashiva Lingayat community to support only the BJP candidate. A case under Section 123(3) of the People’s Representation Act 1951 and Section 171 (F) of the IPC had been registered against him.
Other cases included one against former tourism minister and current BJP National General Secretary C T Ravi as well as Law Minister J C Madhuswamy for alleged various offences under IPC Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting with dangerous weapons) and 339 (wrongful restraint) during a protest.
The decision to withdraw the cases was taken by the state cabinet in August after a subcommittee headed by Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai had recommended the same. However, the DG & IGP, the director of prosecution and government litigation as well as the law department itself had recommended against the withdrawal of the cases.
But, the cabinet had accepted the recommendation of the sub-committee and had gone ahead with the proposal. The government had then justified the move to withdraw cases saying, that only cases related to protests in the public interest are being withdrawn and not personal cases. The state government had also pointed out that the previous Congress government too when it was in power had similarly exercised powers.
This decision of the cabinet though was challenged by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties and a city-based advocate activist Sudha Katwa who had filed PIL’s. A division bench of the High Court headed by the Chief Justice Abhay Oka which heard the petition granted interim relief to the petitioners and ruled that the cases should not be withdrawn. “We direct that no further steps will be taken on the basis of the order dated August 31, 2020.”
In a previous hearing, the bench had asked the state government to submit a compliance report for which the state had sought time. The court has directed the government to file its objection to the latest order by 22 January.
While the state government was yet to officially react to the HC’s order, a senior administration official in the state who did not want to be identified – as he is not authorised to speak to media – said, “We are yet to get a copy of the full order. We will examine the same and then we will decide on our next course of action.”