The Karnataka High Court wants to know from the Central and State Government why there were no restrictions imposed on the number of persons allowed to attend the marriage ceremony of Nikhil Kumaraswamy, son of former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy. The wedding was held on April 17, it was attended by around 80 to 90 people.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna said "We make it clear that we are not on one individual function already held on 17th April. But we are on the question of State Government permitting such functions which prima facie will defeat the very object of imposing lockdown and introducing several prohibitions. If the policy of the Central Government and State Government is to permit holding of such marriage functions which can be attended by more than 50 persons, the Government must say so in writing so that all the citizens will be entitled to benefit of the said facility."
The observation was made after the state government submitted that "Permission for the ceremony was granted by the Deputy Commissioner, Ramanagara District on April 16. Private security persons were deployed by the organizers with strict instructions to permit only invitees, and the same was ensured under the supervision of the Dy. SP. Ramanagara. A team of health officials were deployed at the marriage ceremony for thermal screening of all attendees. The officials also ensured that masks and sanitizers were distributed to everyone present as per the Covid-19 protocol. In addition, bandobast arrangements were made at the venue of the marriage, and the general public were strictly not permitted to attend the ceremony."
Additional Advocate General relied upon Clause (4) of Annexure I to the order dated 15th April, of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Annexure I is of "National Directives for COVID-19 Management". Clause (4) is under title "PUBLIC SPACES" which provides that "Gatherings such as marriages and funerals shall remain regulated by the District Magistrate".
However, the bench said "Assuming that the District Magistrate had power to grant permission for holding a marriage ceremony on 17th April, we are surprised to note that he has omitted to mention in the purported permission any ceiling on the number of guests attending the marriage function."
The court referred to orders dated 15th April, 2020 and 1st May, 2020, and called for a policy statement from the Central Government and State Government on whether it is open for the District Magistrates to grant permission for holding of marriage ceremonies and other gatherings which are prohibited, irrespective of number of guests attending the function.
It reminded the authorities about Clause (5) of Annexure-I of the order dated 1st May 2020,which specifically records that marriages related gatherings shall ensure social distancing, and maximum number of guests allowed shall not be more than 50. In Annexure-I to notification dated 15th April, 2020, there was no such relaxation granted allowing attendance of not more than 50 guests.
The State Government has also been told to submit details about how many Movement Passes for inter district travel of the vehicles were granted to enable the guests to attend the function held on 17th April, 2020