The Bombay High Court while rejecting two separate bail applications filed on different grounds on Friday observed that release of an accused or a convict in 'breach of the lockdown order' and at the cost of risking lives of many cannot be considered to fall within the category of "extremely urgent matter" which is exclusively being heard by the Court during the lockdown period.
Justice AM Badar heard applications filed by one Sopan Lanjekar who was accused under Sections 420 and 409 of the Indian Penal Code and Ganesh Pathare who was accused under Sections 8(c) and 22 of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
However, the ground for release urged by Pathare was that his son is 100% blind and he needs his care during the lockdown period.
Court observed that the said ground was available to Pathare even when the application was filed originally, which was before the lockdown.
At the very outset, Court noted that the bench had been appointed by the Chief Justice to hear extremely urgent judicial matters on the criminal side due to advisory against congregation because of outbreak of Novel CoronaVirus (COVID-19).
Court went on to elaborate the process undertaken by the Court's registry, staff, and members of the lower judiciary, prison staff once the bail application is disposed of. Justice Badar then noted-
"It is, thus, clear that several staff members, officers and the Presiding Officer of the concerned Court and other departments of the State are required to work on the bail writ, after its issuance by the court.
Because of Lockdown declared by the State, as mentioned in the foregoing paragraph, all Offices including Offices of the Court are virtually closed. By deputation of bare minimum staff extremely urgent business is being transacted. Processing a bail order and consequent release of an accused/convict, as such, virtually amounts breaching the order of complete Lockdown. Putting several employees and officers to work, may put them to the risk of contracting COVID-19."
Furthermore, the entire Law Enforcing Machinery is focusing on implementation of the Lockdown throughout the State by virtually remaining on the field for 24 hours. This is being done for saving the entire nation from the pandemic. In such a situation, it is not advisable to insist that the State depute Police Officers for instructing the Prosecutors by undertaking travel to the Office of the Public Prosecutor and attending the Court by leaving their territorial jurisdiction where their presence in such a situation is a must, Court said.
Justice Badar also referred to the Rajasthan High Court's observations in the case of Shahrukh S/o. of Juharu Khan vs. State of Rajasthan regarding the category of "extremely urgent matters" that are being heard during this period of lockdown to combat the pandemic of Covid-19.
Thus, rejecting both the applications, Court observed-
"Release of an accused or convict at the cost of breaching the order of lockdown and at the cost of risking lives of many cannot be considered to fall within the category of 'extreme urgent matter.' "
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