The Bombay High Court while hearing a public interest litigation contending that certain police personnel are guilty of gross violation of human rights as they subjected lockdown violators including senior citizens to 'inhuman indignities', observed that police cannot resort to illegal methods or punishments in the garb of enforcing the lockdown.
Justice Rohit B Deo of the Nagpur bench was hearing the PIL filed by one Sandip Madhu Nair, who admitted that while the police force, by and large, has risen to the occasion and is discharging its duties in an exemplary manner, the instances highlighted in the petition is a blot on the otherwise laudable performance of the police machinery.
The petitioner contends that persons who allegedly violated the lockdown directives, including senior citizens on morning walks, are subjected to inhuman indignities. The alleged violators are photographed holding placards declaring that the violator is an enemy of the nation, the society, the family and humanity since he is a law breaker. Moreover, photographs of the lockdown violators, which include elderly citizens and respected professionals, have been published in prominent newspapers and have gone viral on social media.
Petitioner's counsel Anil Kamale submitted that while police are entitled, and indeed bound to, take all possible measures within the four corners of law, as are necessary to enforce the lockdown, making a humiliating spectacle of the violators is a serious infringement of human rights and the constitutional right guaranteed under Article 21.
Noting that the averments in the said petition are 'extremely disturbing', Court asked Additional Government Pleader KS Joshi to ascertain whether such instances as alleged in the PIL have actually occurred.
AGP Joshi took instructions from Police Commissioner BK Upadhyay and JCP Ravindra Kadam and submitted that while certain instances did occur in the first phase of lockdown, the humiliating photographs have not been published by the police.
However, the AGP was not in a position to make a statement, at this stage, whether the photographs were taken by police personnel and assured the Court that such a statement shall be made on the next date of hearing.
Justice Rohit Deo observed-
"I have come across several news reports highlighting the unusual and humiliating punishments which are meted out by police personnel under the garb of enforcing the lockdown directives. This Court has no reason to suspect the intent. However, the end does not necessarily justify the means. The police personnel who have indulged in a blatant violation of human dignity were expected to be alive to our society being a civilized society governed by the rule of law.
While extraordinary situations may call for extraordinary measures, the measures must have the sanction of law. Human dignity and rights cannot be sacrificed at the altar of extraordinary situations nor can the constitutional right to a dignified life be hostage to supposed intentions. This Court would request the Police Commissioner to sentitivise the personnel under his command to ensure that such sordid incidents do not occur."
Furthermore, Court directed the police not to take any extra legal measures or take recourse to such punishments for violators of the lockdown. Court said-
"The police machinery has sufficient power under the provisions of law which would enable strict enforcement of the lockdown directives. While this Court trusts that the top echelons of the police machinery shall ensure that there shall be no further violation of human rights while enforcing the lockdown, should a single such incident be noticed, this Court expects the Police Commissioner to hold the senior officer within whose jurisdiction the incident has occurred, accountable."
Notice was issued to the State home department and other respondents, made returnable on May 21
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