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The Court made the observation while dismissing pleas filed by two Korean nationals alleging that a special camp in which they are lodged at in Trichy was not observing measures to guard against the spread of COVID-19.
The Madras High Court on Thursday sounded an appreciative note that hearing cases through video calls helps the Court save time and ascertain accurately what the fact situation is.
In this regard, Justice S Vaidyanathan observed,
"The system of viewing disputed sites through 'Whatsapp Video Call or any other Application through Video mode' can be implemented in cases pertaining to encroachments on roads, water bodies, poramboke lands, Tanks, illegal constructions, OSR, Parks, etc. to ensure that, the Officials/Authorities discharge their work without any extraneous consideration."
The Court made the observation while dismissing petitions preferred by two Korean nationals, who had been arrested earlier in a criminal case over a default in tax liabilities, and who were lodged in a special camp in Tiruchirapalli during the COVID-19 lockdown.
In this regard, the petitioners had e-mailed the High Court images to support claims that the special camp was overcrowded and that the authorities were not taking appropriate steps to guard against the spread of the Coronavirus.
Apart from directing the state government to verify these claims, Justice Vaidyanathan on Thursday also connected over a WhatsApp video call with Special Deputy Collector SN Suthanthira Rajan to take stock of the conditions in the special camp.
Through the WhatsApp Video call, the Deputy Collector showed the Court maximum areas of the special camp in Tiruchirapalli, the order records.
The Court found that,
"After watching the same, this Court is able to visualize that, the Special Camp is maintained neatly and there are no stains in the Toilets."
Debunking the claims made by the petitioners, the Court said,
"When sufficient space is available in the Special Camp in Tiruchirapalli District to accommodate 80 persons and that, only 73 inmates are staying there, this Court is of the view that, photographs furnished by the Petitioners to the effect that, more number of persons are detained in a single room without any sign of social distancing, have been taken by the Petitioners only for the purpose of this case.
By doing so, Petitioners are inviting diseases and none can be blamed for their act. The cluster in the room is the act of the inmates and not on account of the Respondents."
The Bench proceeded to opine that in cases of detention, the Court cannot step into the shoes of the state government. Further, if the petitioners are allowed to be released, they may end up spreading the COVID-19 disease further.
The judge added that the petitioners were unable to realize the consequences of the prevailing pandemic.
Madras High Court
The Court also noted that to allow the pleas before it would also be to set an unfair precedent and "open the pandora’s box, paving way to other persons detained in the Special Camp in Tiruchirapalli District to approach this Court for similar orders. Ultimately, the State machinery will crash."
Therefore, the Court proceeded to dismiss the petitions, while directing the state to ensure the expeditious hearing of the petitioners' pending cases once the situation normalises.