The Gujarat High Court (HC) on Tuesday, while granting bail to 15 migrant labourers who were arrested on charges of attempt to murder and dacoity on May 17, noted that the chaotic situation could have been averted had there been proper coordination between the police and the nodal officers for migrants appointed by the state government. The migrants had clashed with the Shapar-Veraval police following delay in return to their native states.
While their bail applications were opposed by the additional public prosecutor representing the state, on the ground that private vehicles were damaged, police personnel were threatened and some had instigated others to kill police personnel present on the spot, in addition to a video of the incident being recorded, advocates for the labourers — Anand Yagnik and Pratik Rupala — submitted that that none of the applicants could be figured out in the said videos or photographs. They added that there cannot be denial to the fact that a few of the migrant labourers had spoken ill about Gujarat Police and that there is no involvement of the applicants in any such instigation.
The court of Justice Gita Gopi noted in its order that the state government had issued directions for providing necessary support in movement facilitation under the guidance of nodal officers, with the police expected to work in coordination with other local authorities. “It appears that there was utter lack of coordination between the police and the Nodal Officers, who were selected by the Government,…,which led to the chaotic situation,” the order observed.
Justice Gopi also relied on the Supreme Court’s observation in a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL), addressing migrant repatriation issues during the lockdown, wherein it had suggested states to consider the withdrawal of prosecution or complaints under section 51 of the Disaster Management Act and other related offences lodged against the migrant labourers, who were alleged to have violated lockdown measures by moving on roads.
Justice Gopi noted that the police were “required to handle the crowd tactfully,” while also considering the fact that “there would not have been any intention on the part of the migrant labourers to even attempt to murder,” while observing that the injuries sustained by the police personnel were not life threatening. The court granted bail to the 15 applicant labourers.
Based on the complaint filed by the police against the migrants, the court observed that it “reveals 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, coupled with the fact that the police 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.”
The accused-migrants wanted to go back to their respective native states of Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh among others, via Shramik Special trains for which they had registered. While demanding trains to return to their native place, many of these migrant labourers resorted to violence near Shapar area of Rajkot city and a few police personnel and a journalist were injured.
“The chaos had broken out after the migrants had gathered at Field Marshal School and were supposed to be taken in buses to the railway station. Angry over the lack of proper communication from district authorities, the migrants blocked the highway and pelted stones on the travellers and police personnel. Several migrant workers were arrested and put behind bars,” stated a press note from advocate Anand Yagnik.
The accused had been in judicial custody since May 17, when the FIR naming 25 people as accused was registered.
They were charged with attempt to murder, rioting, unlawful assembly and under the provisions of the Gujarat Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines