‘Police failed to manage situation’: Gujarat HC grants bail to migrants held for uproar over delay in return
It was alleged the uproar on May 17 was because the workers insisted they would not leave a school ground unless they were registered for their travel through the special Shramik trains
The Gujarat High Court has granted bail to as many 25 migrant workers, arrested on charges of murder and dacoity, for their alleged clash with the police personnel on May 17 at Rajkot, over delay in their return to their native states.
The bench of Justice Gita Gopi appreciated that the allegations made in the impugned complaint revealed that "sentiments of the migrant labourers were at an all time high on account of the prevailing situation" and "they wished to return to their native states as early as possible", and that it was the police that had failed to manage / control the situation appropriately. "
"This court is of the view that the entire incident could have been averted if there would have been proper coordination between the police and the Nodal Officers appointed by the state government," it said. "The police was required to handle the crowd tactfully," observed the Single bench.
The Bench expressed the view that "there would not have been any intention on the part of the migrant labourers to even attempt to murder the police personnel" and that the injuries sustained by the police personnel were not life threatening.
Considering that the Supreme Court has asked all states / UTs to consider withdrawal of complaints / prosecution under the Disaster Management Act and other related offences lodged against the migrant labourers, who are alleged to have violated lockdown measures, the court exercised the discretion to enlarge them on bail.
The labourers had come to arrested on charges of attempt to murder and dacoity, the FIR being for offences punishable under several sections of IPC, section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, section 43 of the Gujarat Police Act, section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, section 3(e) and 7 of the Prevention of Destruction to Public Property Act, 1984.
It was alleged that the uproar was for making arrangements for their return and the workers had insisted that they would not leave the school ground, where their registration was underway for their travel through the special Shramik trains, unless the arrangements were made. It was argued that a few people amongst the crowd began to misbehave with the police, that the police tried to pacify them but all efforts went in vain, with the accused instigating the crowd, and threatening to kill the police persons on duty.
There was allegedly stone pelting and thrashing with branches of the trees with the intention to kill the police officials. The police officers and other staff sustained minor injuries. Even the vehicles of the general public were ransacked. It was stated that a crowd had also tried to snatch away the camera belonging to a Journalist of a Gujarati news channel, who was shooting the events.
"The Government of Gujarat, vide order dated 29.04.2020, had resolved that the Government of India has issued guidelines on 29.04.2020 allowing movement of persons across state borders, which makes it necessary to have coordination with respective state / UT Governments to ensure smooth and orderly movement of persons between Gujarat and other states / UTs. Nodal Officers were appointed for such purpose. Thus, through the said order / resolution, the Government of Gujarat has issued directions for providing necessary support in movement facilitation under guidance of these nodal officers", observed the Single Judge.
Noting that "The local authorities were very much aware about the arrival of hundreds of migrant labourers at the Field Marshall Ground" and therefore, "the police was required to work in coordination with other authorities", the bench commented that "there was utter lack of coordination between the police and the Nodal Officers", who were selected by the Government, vide order / resolution dated 29.04.2020, which "led to the chaotic situation".