The Uttarakhand High Court on Friday issued notices to the State Government and the Union of India on a PIL seeking action against State Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj, for disobeying the order for Home Quarantine affixed outside his house in Dehradun.
"As to why different standards are adopted for home quarantine violations; and when action is initiated against the common-man, why no action is taken against those holding constitutional offices indulging in such violations, needs to be ascertained," the bench comprising of Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice Ramesh Chandra Khulbe remarked.
On May 20, the District Magistrate and the Chief Medical Officer, Dehradun had affixed a notice outside the Tousim Minister's house, recommending 14 days home-quarantine, as his wife had tested Corona positive.
The PIL alleges that in complete disregard of the same, the Minister participated in the Cabinet Meetings held on May 21 and May 29, in the presence of Chief Minister, other Cabinet Ministers and several Secretaries of various Departments, without informing them that his wife had tested Covid positive.
The Petitioner contended that while FIRs had been registered under Sections 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 307 IPC (attempt to murder) against common citizens for similar violation, no action had been taken to lodge a similar FIR against the Minister.
The court said that it sees no reason to express any opinion regarding the application of Section 307 IPC, however, it was satisfied prima facie Section 188 IPC may be attracted if the allegations are found to be true.
"If, as is contended on behalf of the petitioner, the fourth respondent was residing in the very same house during the period when he participated in the Cabinet Meetings, he may then, prima facie, be liable to be proceeded against for the offence under Section 188 IPC as his failure to maintain home-quarantine, and his act of participating in Cabinet Meetings, has resulted in the risk of his infecting others," the bench observed.
The matter is likely to be listed within three weeks, for further consideration.
During hearing, the Chief Standing Counsel on behalf of the State of Uttarakhand emphasized on the possibility that the Minister did not reside in the house whereby the notice was affixed.
This fact however, the Court said, could only be ascertained on the Minister (4th Respondent) being put to notice, and his filing a counter affidavit presenting his version of the incidents.
"As the Cabinet Meetings were, admittedly, held in Dehradun it is evident that the fourth respondent was also present in Dehradun," the court observed.
Case Title: Umesh Kumar v. State of Uttarakhand & Ors.
Case No.: WP PIL No. 78/2020
Quorum: Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice Ramesh Chandra Khulbe
Appearance: Advocate Gopal K. Verma (for Petitioner); Chief Standing Counsel Paresh Tripathi assisted by Additional Chief Standing Counsel CS Rawat, Standing Counsel Anil K. Bisht and Advocates Suyash Pant and SS Chaudhary (for State of Uttarakhand); Standing Counsel VK Kapruwan (for Union of India)
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