A report filed before the Karnataka High Court on Thursday stated that a total 116 people were arraigned as accused in a case registered over violation of COVID protocols of wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. The rally was led by Union Home Minister Amit Shah at Belagavi on January 17.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Suraj Govindaraj in its order noted that "The report submitted by the Assistant Commissioner of Police Market Yard, Belgavi city records that now charge sheet has been filed in crime no 58/2021, in which is 116 persons are arraigned as accused and cognizance has been taken by the magistrate."
It may be noted that on March 12, the High Court had prima facie held that there was violation of the rules regarding wearing of masks and social distancing in the rally. The Court had then directed the Police Commissioner to explain the action taken against violators.
However, the court in its order dated May 25, pulled up the Police Commissioner of Belagavi for not registering even a single FIR over the violation of COVID protocols. It had observed "Perhaps the commissioner was unaware about the provisions of said regulation made under the Karnataka Epidemic Diseases Act, of 2020. The affidavit of commissioner shows that not a single FIR was registered against violators."
It had added "Reading the affidavit as a whole, we find that the Commissioner approached the matter very casually. Large gathering in Belagavi where rules regarding wearing of masks and social distancing were thrown to the wind. But the commissioner seems to be satisfied with the recovery of the fine amount."
The court had then directed the Commissioner to explain why even a single First Information Report, was not registered for violation of provisions of the said Act of 2020 and regulations framed thereunder.
Following this on June 14, Belgavi police filed a First Information Report (FIR) against six persons. The court had then questioned the police stand. "On what basis the Commissioner has made a statement that only six persons were there at the rally who were not wearing masks?. In the rally of thousands, he is bold to say only six persons were not wearing masks. Can anyone believe this?", the Chief Justice had asked.
Advocate General Prabhuling K Navadgi had then assured the court that the FIR was only a starting point and steps like checking of video footage etc would be undertaken to ascertain the exact number of violators during the further investigations. The court in its order noted that the Advocate General assures the court that as FIR is now registered on June 14, proper investigation will be carried out and everyone who has violated the law will be booked.
During the hearing of a petition filed by Letzkit foundation the court also directed Advocate G R Mohan appearing for one of the petitioners to furnish the details of the complaints made to the Grievance redressal forum started by the state government for receiving complaints of violation of covid-19 norms. The court directed the government advocate to submit the action taken on the complaints by August 18.