The Bombay High Court has said that “one incident” of gathering of about 2,000 migrant workers in Bandra “does not make out an urgency” and declined to pass urgent directions to the Maharashtra government, including producing reports regarding availability of armed forces in Mumbai to prevent such incidents in future.
A single-judge bench of Justice Burgess Colabawalla heard the petition by three residents of Bandra, Khar and Mahim, who claimed to be directly aggrieved by the incident, via videoconference on April 27 and disposed of their application for interim relief.
“One incident does not make out an urgency and the court is sure that the government and the civic authorities will do whatever is necessary to ensure that an incident like the one that took place at Bandra, Mumbai on April 14, 2020 will be avoided until the lock-down is effective,” Justice Colabawalla said.
Upset over the extension of the national coronavirus lockdown till May 3, nearly 2,000 migrant workers gathered outside the suburban Bandra West station in Mumbai on April 14, demanding the right to return home, and access to food and rations. The police had to resort to a lathi-charge to disperse the crowd.
The gathering comprised largely of migrant workers and their families residing in the adjoining slum settlements. Many of them said they had been hoping that the 21-day lockdown that was to end Tuesday would be lifted — or that arrangements would be made to transport them to their homes in UP, Bihar and West Bengal.
Calling the incident a “serious security breach”, the petition by the three residents said they would be the “first in line to be afflicted by Covid-19 once a spike is recorded that it is directly attributable to the incident”.
They urged the court to direct the state government to make an assessment for requesting the aid of the military to be deployed in such vulnerable and red zones in support of civic authorities. Further, the PIL urged to direct the government to produce reports as to the availability of armed forces, including Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and State Reserve Police Force (SRPF), in Mumbai in case the need arises.
The residents also sought formation of a special investigation team (SIT) headed by retired HC judge to conduct a detailed inquiry into the incident. They also sought from the government timely report on criminal action initiated in the incident.
Advocate Rahul Tawani, representing the petitioners, argued that there was an urgency in the case as there had been a security breach due to the incident. Poornima H Kantharia, representing the government, opposed the plea.
“I do not find that any case is made out for any urgent ad-interim reliefs. All these directions, if required, can always be and passed by the court as and when the normal court work resumes. In these circumstances, the application for ad-interim relief is rejected,” the court said.
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