New Delhi: In the last two days, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has passed over 20 orders directing several accused persons to register themselves as ‘Covid-19 warriors’ with district magistrates. The court has said it is their fundamental duty to “defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so”.
In an order passed Monday by the Gwalior bench of the court, Justice Sheel Nagu granted bail to some accused persons in a case filed under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 294 (obscene acts and songs), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 506 (criminal intimidation). The judge noted that the accused are “young/middle-aged/able-bodied responsible citizens”, and asserted that while the country is struggling due to Covid-19, the accused are “obliged to assist the government in times of this deep crisis”.
To bolster its assertion, the court cited fundamental duties under Article 51A of the Constitution, one of which states that citizens must “defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so”.
The court then ordered them to register as volunteers with authorities, “so that the human resource in the shape of the appellants can be utilised for the betterment of the society and to ward off the crisis”.
It also instructed the district magistrate concerned to assign them “work of Covid-19 disaster management…by taking all prescribed precautions”.
“This court expects that the appellants shall rise to the occasion to serve the society in this time of crisis to discharge their fundamental duty of rendering national service when called upon to do so as per Article 51-A(d) of the Constitution,” the MP High Court said.
Registering as a ‘Covid-19 warrior’ was in addition to the usual bail conditions — they should cooperate with the trial, refrain from threatening any witnesses, not commit any other offence, and not leave the country. The accused were also asked to ensure that they follow the Covid-19 precautionary protocol prescribed by the Supreme Court, central government and state governments.
The district magistrate was asked to inform the court if this specific condition was not complied with.
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Wide range of cases
But this order was not the only one of its kind — the MP High Court passed at least 20 similar orders Monday and Tuesday. Over a dozen of these orders were passed by the single-judge bench of Justice Nagu, in cases ranging from gangrape and attempt to murder to assaulting a police officer, recovery of smack, Section 354 of IPC (assaulting a woman with intent to outrage her modesty), robbery, attempt to commit dacoity and trespass.
A few of these orders were passed by a division bench comprising Justices Nagu and Rajeev Kumar Shrivastava, with the former authoring the judgment.
Justice Shrivastava, as a single judge, also passed a few such orders, in cases involving a murder and attempt to murder.
Download Aarogya Setu for bail
Over the last few weeks, courts all over the country have also directed bail applicants to download the Aarogya Setu app.
In several matters where bail was granted last week by the Additional Sessions Judge at Patiala House Courts in New Delhi, the accused were ordered to download the Aarogya Setu app and keep their GPS and Bluetooth open as a mandatory bail condition.
A similar practice is being followed by other courts too. In an order passed Monday, Justice S.A. Dharmadhikari of the Madhya Pradesh High Court also ordered a bail applicant to install the app on his phone.
The applicant in the case had been awarded four years’ imprisonment in a case under Section 7 (public servant taking illegal gratification) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. While suspending his sentence as he had filed an appeal against his conviction, the court granted him bail on a personal bond. The applicant was also asked to submit a written undertaking that he will adhere to all circulars issued by the authorities on Covid-19.
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