New Delhi: In the past few days, both Gujarat and the Allahabad High Courts have taken a sympathetic view of cases filed during the nationwide lockdown imposed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the Allahabad High Court had, on 19 June, advised authorities to spread awareness about the ongoing situation instead of putting people in jail for violating lockdown guidelines, the Gujarat High Court, on 23 June, granted bail to 33 migrants who it said were “victims” of the crisis and not criminals.
The Gujarat High Court was hearing bail applications filed by the migrant labourers working in Ahmedabad, who had been in jail since 18 May. They were arrested following the violent clash with police outside the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A).
The migrants were charged with several provisions of the IPC, including those on rioting, Epidemic Diseases Act, Gujarat Police Act, Disaster Management Act and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
Taking note of the suffering of migrants during the lockdown, Justice Paresh Upadhyay observed, “It is noted that, in the lockdown, when the applicants were without any work, without any money and even without any food and under such circumstances, instead of arranging their going back home, they are sent to jail. The applicants are more the victims, certainly not the criminals.”
The court granted them bail on a personal bond of Rs 500 each.
‘Spread awareness instead of jailing people’
The Allahabad High Court has advised authorities to spread awareness about the ongoing situation, instead of putting people in jail for violating the Covid-19 lockdown.
The court was hearing a petition for quashing a case filed against seven people under Sections 188 (disobeying an order issued by a public servant) and 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of life endangering disease) of the IPC.
The bench, comprising Justices Sunita Agarwal and Saumitra Dayal Singh, noted in its order: “In our opinion, it would be more advisable to create awareness and consciousness among people rather than putting them in jails or lock ups which are already over crowded.”
The police had alleged that the petitioners gathered in Agra without following social distancing norms. But the petitioners submitted that they were trying to distribute food packets to the poor and a lot of people had gathered around them.
The court then observed that while everybody needs to follow the lockdown protocol, restraining violators “may further aggravate the Corona crisis”.
The petitioners were asked to file an undertaking before the senior superintendent of police (SSP), Agra, stating that they will follow all norms and protocol on Covid-19, and not breach them in future. The SSP was asked to do the needful after receiving the undertaking from them.
The court also said the petitioners should be granted “one opportunity… to mend themselves”, and asked authorities to not arrest them till submission of the police report.