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"The FIRs are being incessantly filed for trivial offences, which will have to go through their own process, eventually burdening the police, jails and whole criminal justice system", the petition states.
A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court against FIRs registered under Section 188 of the IPC or for other petty offences against thousands of persons for violation of the lockdown imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The petition has been filed by former IPS Officer and the Chairman of the Think-tank Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC), Prof Dr Vikram Singh for a direction for to quash the FIRs registered under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and for other petty offences during the lockdown. Section 188 of the IPC deals with Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant.
The petitioner has also urged the Apex Court to direct the Centre to advise States not to register any more such cases and to refrain from filing complaints for petty offences during the lockdown.
It is the petitioner's case that no FIR can be registered under Section 188 of the IPCby the police. Rather,
"It is most humbly submitted that S. 188 of the IPC must be read with S. 195 of the CrPC, which mandates that only a Magistrate can take cognizance of an offence under Section 188 IPC, and that too on a complaint submitted by a public servant."
The petitioner contends that the legal processes cannot be now misused by the Police when the Disaster Management Act has been invoked.
The petition points out that according to the think-tank's research as many as 848 FIRs were filed under Section 188 in 50 Police Stations of Delhi alone. These FIRs were filed between the period of March 23 and April 13. The Uttar Pradesh government also released the number of FIRs through its official Twitter handle which stands at 15,378 FIRs against 48,503 persons.
The petitioner submits that such an action by Police is in violation of the Fundamental Rights under Articles 14 and 21 of the people and also, in essence, goes against the order of the Supreme Court which passed certain directions for the decongestion of jails during this pandemic. On the other hand, Section 188, IPC mandates a jail term of six months.
This would also lead to an undue burden on the Police personnel who would have to work on the voluminous documentation and paperwork for these cases once registered. As stated in the petition,
"The FIRs are being incessantly filed for trivial offences, which will have to go through their own process, eventually burdening the police, jails and whole criminal justice system."
All the same, the petitioner emphasises that he is not promoting violation of the lockdown in any manner and adds that the situation needs to be handled humanely.
The petition has been filed through Advocate Virag Gupta.