The Bombay High Court on Tuesday observed that prima facie it appears that the President of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) was deliberately and malafidely sent to a quarantine facility due to his animosity with a Senior Inspector not on suspicions that he was Covid-19 positive, as contended by the police.
Justice Revati Mohite Dere was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by Mahendra Singh on behalf of K Narayanan. Court had previously asked the State to file a reply in the matter.
"It appears that Mr. K. Narayanan, as a President of CITU was working actively during the lock-down period by distributing food and other essential supplies to the migrant workers and the poor. It also appears that CITU had called for a national protest against the deteriorating plight of migrant workers and the poor, particularly about food, health, etc."
According to the petitioner, K Narayanan and his colleagues Mahboob Patel, CPI (M), Western Suburban Taluka Committee Member and Badruddin Shaikh, CPI (M), Andheri, were distributing food and other essential supplies to the poor and needy on April 21, 2020 in compliance with the social distancing norms and all other norms. K Narayanan and his colleagues were also carrying flags/placards to be distributed to participants in the protest programme.
However, Narayanan had a rough relationship with one Parmeshwar Ganame, Sr. PI of DN Nagar Police Station on account of several issues relating to police excesses. Furthermore, it was alleged that Abhishek Trimukhe, DCP, Zone-IX along with Parmeshwar Ganame and some constable asked Narayanan and his colleagues to proceed to the said Police Station when the said distribution started. After some conversation, Badruddin and Mahboob were allowed to proceed with the distribution of food and essential supplies to the poor and migrants, however, Narayanan was taken to a private lab at Jogeshwari (West) and was asked to undergo a Covid Test, though he exhibited no symptoms.
Thereafter, Narayanan was sent to West Blue Hotel, a Quarantine Center of the Corporation. On April 21, 2020, Narayanan's Covid Test was done and he was told that the results would come on the next day. On April 22, however, despite repeated requests, Narayanan was not informed or given a copy of the Covid Test Report.
Narayanan's test reports were obtained by his colleagues directly from the lab on April 29, 2020, as the result was not being disclosed to him. It is not in dispute that the Covid Test Report of K Narayanan was negative.
"According to the Circular of the Corporation dated 15th April 2020 (Revised Guidelines for Covid-19 Testing), a patient is to be kept in quarantine for 14 days at the highest, in the event, the tests are negative."
An affidavit was filed on behalf of the MCGM by Umesh Bapat, Executive Engineer. In the said affidavit, it is mentioned that Narayanan was admitted at the Quarantine Center at West Blue Hotel, Maruti Chambers, Andheri (West) as per the telephonic instructions from DN Nagar Police Station and tests were carried out as per the directions and Guidelines issued by the Central and the State Government.
It is also mentioned that Covid Test conducted on Narayanan was found negative in test analysis, however, despite the same, as per various circulars issued by the Central and the State Government, Narayanan was quarantined.
The affidavit states that K Narayanan will be discharged from the Quarantine Center in due course of time, "as per the instructions of D. N. Nagar Police Station".
Justice Dere observed that Narayanan was also not allowed to carry his mobile when he was sent to the quarantine center-
"It also appears that during the quarantine period, Mr. K. Narayanan was not allowed by the Police to carry his mobile phone when he was sent to the Quarantine Center. Neither the learned A.P.P nor the learned counsel for the Corporation has been able to highlight or show any Circular which denies a person from carrying his mobile, during his quarantine.
Although learned APP states that Mr. K. Narayanan had himself handed over his mobile phone to police, it is difficult to believe that Mr. K. Narayanan would hand over his mobile phone to the police on his own volition. It is only on the last date of hearing of this petition, after hearing the counsel for the petitioner, Mr. K. Narayanan was handed over his mobile phone, where he was quarantined."
Court further pressed the Corporation further on why Narayanan was still being quarantined despite testing negative and staying in quarantine for the mandatory 14 days and why are they waiting for the instructions of DN Nagar police station, but "no answer was forthcoming."
A case was registered against Narayanan under Sections 188, 269, 270 of the Indian Penal Code r/w Section 51(B) of the National Disaster Management Act and under Section 11 of the COVID-19 Regulations, 2020 at DN Nagar police station.
APP SR Shinde submitted that all the offences with which Narayanan is charged, are bailable.
Petitioner's counsel Kranti LC submitted that Narayanan was deliberately and malafidely sent to the Quarantine Center for several reasons, including his animosity with the concerned Sr. PI of the DN Nagar Police Station and not because he was suspected to be a Covid-19 patient. Court said-
"Prima facie, in the peculiar facts, there seems to be some substance in the said contention. The withholding of Mr. K. Narayanan's mobile, non-disclosure of his Covid-19 report, conduct of the officers and circumstances in which he was sent to the Quarantine Center, does raise some suspicion and questions. Quarantine facilities cannot be used by the police to keep away people, who according to them, are of nuisance value. Quarantine facilities cannot be used as preventive detention or as a punitive measure."
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