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[Political Gatherings Amid COVID] Proceed As Per 'Lalita Kumari' Judgment And Register FIR Against Defaulting Persons: MP HC To State Authorities [Read Order]

Sparsh Upadhyay
14 Oct 2020 1:05 PM GMT
[Political Gatherings Amid COVID] Proceed As Per Lalita Kumari Judgment And Register FIR Against Defaulting Persons: MP HC To State Authorities [Read Order]
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While taking into account the information received by the reports of Amicus Curiae and contents of I.A. 6084/20 filed by the petitioner in the matter, the Madhya Pradesh High Court on Monday (12th October) observed,

"Cognizable offence under IPC/Disaster Management Act prima facie appears to have been committed."

The Division Bench of Justice Sheel Nagu and Justice Rajeev Kumar Shrivastava, was hearing a plea seeking directions for respondents authorities to take action to restrain the function organized by the political parties in the State.

Notably, on 18th September, the Madhya Pradesh High Court had observed that "law, whether statutory or in the shape of the executive instructions deserves respect & obedience, as much from a common man as from a leader, a political functionary and even the head of State."

Further, the High Court on Saturday (03rd October), in the public interest, passed some interim orders to prevent the Political Congregation in the State (specifically in the 9 districts falling within the territorial jurisdiction of the Bench).

The Bench of Justices Sheel Nagu and Rajeev Kumar Shrivastava had instructed the State Authorities to invoke penal provisions of DMA, IPC against political/governmental/state or social functionaries (Para (E) of the order dated 03.10.2020).

Finally, on Friday (09th October) the Court had directed the authorities that no one howsoever big should be allowed to go scot-free without being subjected to the rigours of the penal provision on the occasion of a breach of COVID-19 protocol.

The Additional Advocate General Shri Mody was also directed to answer the following questions:-

(i) Whether any FIR was lodged against any of the political and State functionaries on whose behalf and behest and in whose presence the aforesaid congregations took place, and if not then why?

(ii) Whether the direction contained in operative Para (E) of the order dated 03.10.2020 of this Court passed in the present petition was complied with or not?

Court proceedings on 12th October

The Amicus Curiae jointly filed 3rd report pointing out that despite passing of interim order by the court, there have been several occasions of breach of Covid-19 protocol by gatherings/congregations comprising of persons in number which far exceeds the limit prescribed by Covid-19 protocol.

The report was accompanied by phonographs of various meetings/congregations held primarily by political parties owing to bi-election announced in various legislative assembly constituencies in and around the district of Gwalior.

The petitioner in the matter also moved I.A. 6084/2020 pointing out the following,

"After passing of interim order on 3/10/2020 by the court, congregation of a large number of people ranging from 300 to 500 took place on 3/10/2020 at Baghel Chhatrawas Naka Chandrawani Road, Lashkar, Gwalior organized by Shri Munnalal Goel, former MLA on 4/10/2020 at Gwalior legislative assembly constituency for and on behalf of Shri Pradyumna Singh Tomar, former MLA on 4/10/2020 again at Ward No. 19 Gwalior for and on behalf of Shri Satish Singh Sikarwar, candidate of Indian National Congress on 5/10/2020 at Mody House opposite Landmark Hotel for and on behalf of Shri Narendra Singh Tomar, Hon. Minister in Central Cabinet and M.P. Morena and on 5/10/2020 again at Bhander District Datia for and on behalf of Shri Kamalnath, former Chief Minister of the State of M.P., and Shri Phool Singh Baraiya candidate Indian National Congress and on 6/10/2020 at Ward No. 1 Gwalior for and on behalf of Shri Ramniwas Rawat and Shri Sunil Sharma candidate Indian National Congress wherein breach of Covid-19 protocol took place in as much as failure of large number of people in wearing mask including political functionaries for and on behalf of whom the said congregations were held without maintaining any social distancing"

In the said I.A.6084/20 a prayer was made for taking appropriate action against political functionaries and the District Authority who caused breach of Covid-19 protocol and who failed to prevent the same respectively.

Another I.A.6066/20 was moved by petitioner praying for stay of the order of Central Govt. dated 6/10/2020 and the consequential order of the State of M.P. dated 8/10/2020 relaxing Covid-19 guidelines by allowing congregations of more than 100 persons in open ground though after maintaining Covid-19 guidelines regarding social distancing, face mask, sanitation and thermal screening.

Court's Directions

The Central Govt. and the State and also the counsel for the Election Commission of India were directed to file their replies to the same before the next date of hearing.

The Court also took into account I.A.6084/20 (filed by the Petitioner) in juxtaposition to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd reports of Amicus Curiae (Shri Sanjay Dwivedi, Shri Raju Sharma and Shri V.D. Sharma Advocates).

In this context, the Court remarked,

"It appears that on various dates, i.e. ,3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th October, 2020 in Districts Gwalior & Datia, congregations which took place reveal commission of a cognizable offence punishable under the provision of the Disaster Management Act 2005 and Indian Penal Code 1860 and the said information of the commission of the cognizable offence was submitted before the police but no consequential action of registering FIR u/S. 154 Cr.P.C. has been taken yet."

Further, the Court said,

"Learned Additional Advocate General need not be reminded about law of the land in regard to statutory obligation cast upon the police u/S. 154 Cr.P.C. on receipt of information disclosing commission of a cognizable offence."

The High Court also cited the Apex Court's ruling in Lalita Kumari Vs. Govt. of U.P. (2014) 2 SCC 1. The High Court remarked,

"The law laid down by Apex Court in Lalita Kumari exposits that on receipt of information regarding the commission of a cognizable offence, registration of offence is a mandatory duty of police against the person who is alleged in the information of committing a cognizable offence. The police cannot go into truthfulness, genuineness or veracity of the information of cognizable offence before registration of FIR. The verification about genuineness, veracity and truthfulness of the information can be gone into only after registration of offence, i.e. during the process of investigation."

In view of the above and in continuation of the direction in para 16-E of the interim order dated 3/10/2020 in this case, this Court directed thus:-

(a) District Magistrates of Gwalior & Datia are directed to ensure taking of appropriate steps in terms of the law laid down by Apex Court in Lalita Kumari (s) by treating the contents of IA.6084/20 and the contents of three joint reports of the Amicus Curiae as information revealing commission of a cognizable offence and register FIR against defaulting persons as per the directive of this court contained in para 16-E of the interim order dated 3/10/2020 against all defaulting members of congregation and defaulting functionaries of the Govt./State/Political Parties on whose behalf, behest and for whom and in whose presence congregations took place violating the Covid-19 protocol.

(b) Compliance report in regard to the above direction be filed by S.P., Gwalior & Datia before the next date of hearing.

(c) Interim order passed earlier by this Court on 3/10/2020 shall continue till next date of hearing and shall be applicable in respect of defaulting congregations which take place in near future in violation of prevailing Covid19 protocol and the order of this Court dated 3/10/2020 at any of the 09 districts falling within the territorial jurisdiction of this Bench.

Click Here To Download Order

[Read Order]

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