The Karnataka High Court on Monday directed the state government to not prevent voluntary organisations from distributing food to the weaker sections of the society.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna while hearing a petition filed by Know Your Rights Association, brought to the attention the order issued by Kalaburagi District Administration, which suggests that organizations which are distributing food to beggars, needy and the homeless, are committing direct violation of the prohibitory order under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Similar situation was also reported in Dharwad district.
The bench said "Prima facie, we are of the opinion that voluntary organizations cannot be prevented from distributing food to the weaker sections of the society so long as they are following the norms of social distancing and taking other precautionary measures."
The court once again suggested the government to coordinate with the NGO working in the field. It said "Right from our first order, we have been suggesting to the State Government that the activities of NGOs working in the field need to be coordinated. If the state government is unable to provide a portal where all the NGOs can upload their information, the state must consider convening meetings at the district level, municipal level, etc. via Video Conferencing for coordinating the activities of NGOs. It will be appropriate that at such meetings, the Chairpersons and Secretaries of the District Legal Service Authorities (DLSAs) are invited to attend."
Efforts undertaken by BBMP to help migrants and homeless people are not satisfactory.
By an order dated April 9, the court had pulled up the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) for not putting in systematic efforts to ascertain how many migrants, homeless people and stranded people are on the streets or are squatting on public places such as below the flyovers, in Bengaluru city. It even had asked the state to issue a
The court had even directed Additional Chief Secretary of the Urban Development Department to issue appropriate directions to BBMP. To ensure that all the measures undertaken by the State Government are implemented within the limits of BBMP.
The state informed the court that it has issued a circular dated April 11, on the subject of opening of shelter homes for migrants, homeless persons, destitutes and those who have been stranded on the streets due to COVID-19 lockdown.
The court said "A perusal of the second report filed by BBMP will show that the same is not at all satisfactory. Compliance of the directions contained in the circular dated 11th April, 2020 is not reported in the second report. Considering the fact that nearly 1/3rd of positive cases of COVID-19 reported in the State are from Bengaluru Urban District, compliance by BBMP with the directions issued by the State Government is of utmost importance."
The bench suggested to BBMP to hold a video conference meeting on Tuesday with the members of the Bar who are appearing today through video conference hearing. BBMP has been told to file further compliance reports by April 15.
On April 7, court had directed BBMP to take immediate steps to set up shelters for migrant workers and to ensure that all facilities are made available to them. This followed the submissions made by counsel for Karnataka State Legal Aid Services Authority (KSLASA) about disturbing features of the status of the migrant workers in the city of Bengaluru. It was found that more than 2000 persons had assembled in and around Majestic Railway Station and Balepet Circle.
DGP Issues Circular for strict implementation on ban of religious congregation.
The State Government informed the court that on April 10, a Circular has been issued by the Director General and Inspector General of Police for strict implementation of complete ban on religious congregations.
Protection to Para-Legal Volunteers
Counsel appearing for Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (KSLSA) informed the court that para-legal volunteers (PLVs) associated with the DLSAs are being issued passes by the Secretaries of the concerned DSLAs. However, the police are not permitting PLVs to move on the basis of such passes. At many places in the city of Bengaluru, the police authorities are showing ignorance about the existence of DSLAs. In fact, there are instances where PLVs were abused in filthy language.
The bench said "The reports placed on record (by KSLSA) show that the State Legal Services Authority and DLSAs are playing a proactive role throughout the State. Therefore, we direct that on a requisition made by the Chairpersons of the DLSAs to the concerned State officials, requisite number of passes shall be issued forthwith, to enable the PLVs to perform the duties which are entrusted to them."
The court also suggested the Director General of Police to consider issuing necessary guidelines to the police authorities to allow the PLVs to do their work on production of the certificates/passes issued by the DLSAs. "The State Government may supply passes by keeping the name of the holder of the pass blank, which shall be filled in by the Secretary of the DSLA with a clear understanding that the passes will be non-transferable and will be returned by the concerned PLVs to the Secretaries of the concerned DSLAs at the end of the day," bench said.
As regards to the issue raised about non-availability of masks and hand gloves to PLVs and the Secretaries of DLSAs who are making frequent visits to various places. The court directed DLSAs to submit a requisition to the District Health Officer concerned for providing adequate number of masks and hand gloves which can be used by PLVs and judicial officers during site visits. "We hope and trust that the requisitions will be acted upon by the State Government at the earliest," it said.