24 Aug 2023 3:52 PM GMT
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today quashed an FIR lodged against former Deputy Chief Minister and present Member of Parliament Sukhbir Badal in 2021 for allegedly violating prohibitory orders during the COVID pandemic."In a democratic country, if a well-established political person, on hearing serious complaints regarding any public issue, decides to verify the same by visiting the...
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today quashed an FIR lodged against former Deputy Chief Minister and present Member of Parliament Sukhbir Badal in 2021 for allegedly violating prohibitory orders during the COVID pandemic.
"In a democratic country, if a well-established political person, on hearing serious complaints regarding any public issue, decides to verify the same by visiting the spot itself, it cannot be said that he intended to violate any promulgation issued by any government under Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 or Disaster Management Act, 2006," the bench of Justice Anoop Chitkara said as it allowed Badal's plea to quash FIR.
As per the allegations, on June 30, 2021, Badal, along with his supporters, without wearing masks, visited the place of occurrence and threatened the employees of M/s Friends and Company who were indulged in the mining work in Village Wazir Bhullar, District Amritsar.
It was further alleged that due to intimidation, the company employees ran away from the spot to save their lives. The accused persons also misled the local people by declaring that the mining undertaken by the complainant (second respondent) was illegal, and thus, they also tarnished the image of their company.
After registration of the FIR, the police found that despite being clarified by the company’s employees that the mining was being conducted based on a contract given by the government, Badal and his supporters did not stop and created a nuisance and ruckus.
Since at that time, prohibitory orders concerning the COVID-19 pandemic passed by the district administration were operational, Badal was accused of flouting the COVID guidelines as well as trying to obstruct the mining activities legally allotted to the complainant firm. Consequently, an FIR was lodged against him under Sections 269, 270, 188, 341, 506 IPC, and Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
Before the Court, challenging the FIR, his counsel argued that Badal, who was the Deputy Chief Minister of the State of Punjab, was under an obligation to visit the site and observe the situation with the ground realities as he had received complaints that the company was charging exorbitant rates for the purchase of sand and also that mining was not being taken out in a scientific manner.
It was further submitted that regarding wearing of a mask, there was no evidence that the petitioner, at that time, was not wearing a mask, and even otherwise, in an open area near the riverbed, which is very far from the crowd, non-wearing mask, was inconsequential.
Taking into account the facts of the case, the Court noted that the place where the petitioner/Badal had gone was not at all crowded as the workers had fled away on noticing his presence and thus, there was no occasion at any time for the employees of the complainant to have any infection, even if the petitioner is hypothetically taken as infected with COVID-19.
Further, the Court also noted that there was no evidence that at any point in time, the petitioner was having any symptoms of COVID-19 infection. Apart from the above, the Court said that there was no other evidence collected by the investigator against the petitioner, which may call for violation of Sections 269, 270, 188, 341, 506 IPC, and Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
Regarding the offence of Section 188 IPC, the Court said that the section talks about disobedience to orders duly promulgated by public servants which relates to the restrictions on the number of people going to any public place during the COVID-19 pandemic under the Disaster Management Act of 2006.
However, the Court found that the prosecution had not gathered any evidence of what disobedience the petitioner caused in this regard. Similarly, the Court said that there was no occasion for the petitioner to cause the wrongful restraint of anyone.
In view of this, finding no offence to be made out against Badal, the Court thought it to be a fit case to quash the FIR and subsequent proceedings.
Case title - Sukhbir Singh Badal vs. State of Punjab and another [CRM-M-1672-2023]
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