SC stays criminal proceedings against Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah, two State Ministers, and AICC leader over the 2022 protest march

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The Supreme Court (SC) of India stayed the criminal proceedings against Karnataka Chief Minister (CM) Siddaramaiah concerning the 2022 protest march conducted by him demanding the resignation of Mr. KS Eshwarappa, then Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister. Along with him, the proceedings against State Minister MB Patil, State Minister Ramalinga Reddy, and All India Congress Committee (AICC) leader Randeep Singh Surjewala over the same protest were also halted by the SC bench. Today, the bench was hearing petitions challenging the order of the Karnataka High Court refusing to quash criminal cases against Siddaramaiah and others. The matter was heard by a two-judge bench comprising Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra and Justice Hrishikesh Roy. The SC bench said, “Issue notice, returnable in six weeks, Till further orders, stay proceedings and impugned order against the petitioners.” 

During the proceedings, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, SA Siddharth Luthra, SA Devadatt Kamat, and SA Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for the political parties. SA Singhvi submitted that the protest was a political protest which was conducted peacefully without any criminal intent. He added that the criminal case was a violation of the right to protest under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. In response to this, Justice Mishra asked “Your argument is that if a politician does it, it should be allowed, but if a normal citizen does, it should not be? How can it be quashed just because it is done by a politician?” He added “Did you seek permission for the demonstration? You have not…on one fine morning you assemble in thousands and say nothing can happen to us because we are protesting…”

Further, SA Sibal submitted that the case was not about a ‘public order allegation’ but about a ‘law and order allegation’ which is not a ground of restriction under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution. He added, “Otherwise it would be very dangerous. Every public protest will be illegal”. After hearing the contentions, the bench stayed the proceedings and issued notice to the respondents returnable within 6 weeks. It also stayed the operation of the order of the Karnataka HC imposing Rs. 10,000 costs each on the petitioners while dismissing their petitions.