Karnataka High Court on Monday stayed a state government order to drop 61 criminal cases against a posse of BJP lawmakers and functionaries, including ministers, apart from allies and political aides.
On a plea from the People’s Union of Civil Liberties, the division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Vishwajith Shetty said no further steps should be taken on the August 31 government order.
The court order had not been uploaded till late Monday evening.
Among the beneficiaries of the government order were law minister J.C. Madhuswamy, tourism minister and BJP national general secretary C.T. Ravi, agriculture minister B.C. Patil, MLA Halappa Achar, Lok Sabha member Pratap Simha, BJP-backed Independent MP Sumalatha Ambareesh, and the chief minister’s political secretary, M.P. Renukacharya.
Madhuswamy and Ravi face charges of unlawful assembly, rioting and wrongful restraint in connection with a sectarian clash in Mysore in November 2015.
Patil had been booked in 2012, when he was in the Congress, on the charge of damaging police vehicles during a Ganesh idol immersion. Simha is accused of injuring a police officer by speeding and breaking down police barriers during a Hanuman Jayanti procession in December 2017.
Law minister Madhuswamy had justified the government order and claimed the Congress and the Janata Dal Secular too had dropped criminal cases against their leaders when they were in power. Political observers said the Congress and the JDS had not withdrawn cases on this scale.
The state government had issued the order under Section 321 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which allows a public prosecutor to withdraw a case with the court’s consent.
It’s not clear whether the government had sought the individual lower courts’ consent by the time the PUCL petition took the matter to the high court on October 23.
PUCL counsel Clifton Rozario told The Telegraph that the high court had on Monday directed the state government to file its statement of objections by January 22. The next hearing is on January 29.
At the previous hearing on December 1, the high court had said 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 to the court”.
The court had noted that the public prosecutor could disagree with a government decision to drop cases. It emphasised that action under Section 321 of the CrPC “can be taken only with the permission of the court”.