The Bombay High Court on Tuesday was constrained to observe that COVID-19 quarantine facilities should not be misused by the police to keep away people, who according to them, were of nuisance value,.
As stated in the order passed by Justice Revati Mohite Dere, "Quarantine facilities cannot be used by the police to keep away people, who according to them, are of nuisance value. Quarantine facilities cannot be used as preventive detention or as a punitive measure,"reports legal news website BarandBench.com.
The High Court was dealing with a criminal appeal for the release of K Narayanan, President of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Mumbai District Committee, who had been placed under quarantine on the instructions of the police for over 14 days, although he had tested negative for a COVID-19 test.
The court was informed that Narayanan had been working actively during the lockdown period by distributing food and other essential supplies to the migrant workers and that CITU had called for a national protest against the deteriorating plight of migrant workers and the poor.
Amid such activities, on April 21 the police authorities intervened and asked Narayanan and his colleagues to proceed to DN Nagar Police Station. Thereafter, Narayanan was taken to a private lab at Jogeshwari (West) by the police to undergo a COVID-19 test, although he exhibited no symptoms.
The court was told that while Narayanan eventually tested negative for COVID-19 he was not given a copy of the test report. Further he was made to stay in a quarantine centre for over the corporation-prescribed 14 days. During the quarantine period, Narayanan was not allowed to carry his mobile phone either.
The court recorded that it was difficult to believe the submission made by the police that Narayanan had surrendered his mobile phone of his own volition. Furthermore, the Corporation was unable to show any circular or direction which stated tha a person could be denied from carrying his mobile during quarantine.
The High Court, thus, held that no plausible reason to justify Narayanan's quarantine beyond 14 days.
Whereas the police had registered a case against Narayanan under Sections 188, 269, 270 of the Indian Penal Code, Section 51(B) of the National Disaster Management Act and under Section 11 of the COVID-19 Regulations, 2020 in relation to his food distribution activities, all these offences were bailable.
In view of the same, and given the Corporations admission that there was no impediment to Narayanan's release and that he would be released the same day, the court proceeded to dispose of the application.
While doing so, the court also recorded the submission of the police that they do not intend to arrest Narayanan, given that the offences charged against him were bailable.