The Gujarat High Court has directed the home department to initiate an inquiry into a Muharram procession taken out in Khambhat of Anand district on August 30 without following Covid-19 protocols.
The order dated September 16 is following a public interest litigation filed by a practising advocate of the Gujarat High Court alleging that the local adminis- tration’s inaction allowed “members of a particular community” to take out a Muharram procession “without following social distancing norms and without wearing masks” amid the pandemic.
A division bench said that the administration in Anand entirely failed to “rise to the occasion.”
The court directed the Principal Secretary of the state home department “to immediately initiate an inquiry into the matter and file a report” before the court. The division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J B Pardiwala also directed the Anand Collector and District Magistrate as well as the Superintendent of Police, Anand, “to file their individual reports”. All reports are expected to be filed by November 27.
As per the petitioner advocate Apurva Kapadia, who was appearing as party-in-person in the PIL, mentioned before the court that a Muharram procession was taken out on August 30 in Khambhat city, despite there being several orders operational already, prohibiting public gathering in light of the pandemic. It was also submitted that the procession’s route passed by the office of Mamlatdar and Khambhat Police Chowky and although the procession had no permission, the officials did not take any action, except register an FIR.
With photographs of the procession placed before the court, the bench termed these as “disturbing to such an extent that we are short of words to express our anguish.” The bench also noted, “…All those who participated in the procession not only put their own lives in danger, but also that of their family members who may be at their respective homes. The result of this rash act on the part of the residents of Khambhat has brought about disastrous consequences in the form of more than 900 cases being reported in the district of Anand out of which 400 were from Khambhat itself.”
The bench asked the local administration, more particularly, the police machinery, as to “what they were doing on that particular day when thousands flocked to mosque and took out the procession of 3 km”, while noting in its order that “not a single individual in the crowd” was wearing mask.
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