Dispose of COVID-19 violation cases immediately: Delhi High Court

The Delhi High Court took the Delhi police to task for dragging a case of violation of COVID-19 guidelines for the past seven months, “when it ought not to have taken even seven days for disposal”, saying that the police’s actions “roused suspicions” and were a “colossal waste of time and human resources”.

The High Court was hearing a petition by sporting goods company Decathlon, which sought quashing of an FIR lodged on December 30 last year after a police patrol party found one of its showrooms at Preet Vihar open, with 8-10 people standing near the reception, beyond the stipulated time of 8 p.m.

Justice Asha Menon refused to quash the FIR noting that there was disobedience of the COVID-19 guidelines, but also questioned the Delhi police for dragging the case till now when the violation was in the nature of “petty offences”.

The judge said the action of the police in issuing notice to employees of the company to appear at the Preet Vihar police station instead of sending the case to be summarily tried by a local court “rouses suspicions”.

“The offence in the present case was committed in December 2021. Yet, even after seven months, it has found no closure, when it ought not to have taken even seven days for disposal… In fact, the police seem to have gone a little too far in the present case as they have proceeded to issue notices under Section 41A Cr.P.C. demanding an appearance at the police station. The noticee stares into the possibility of an arrest on non-compliance, in a case where arrest really is not warranted,” the court said in its August 4 order.

The court remarked, “the purpose of such a notice rouses suspicions”. It added, “The offender ought to have been directed to appear before the court on a specified date and time. Instead, directions are being issued to appear at the Preet Vihar police station.”

Justice Menon directed the case to be forwarded to the local court concerned immediately. The court noted that the offences relating to disobedience of COVID-19 guidelines, issued during the pandemic, cannot be equated with “theft, mischief, cheating, criminal breach of trust or causing of bodily harm”. It ordered that all such cases must be disposed of without further delay.