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Inter alia, the Court has extended the life of interim orders, bail/anticipatory bail orders and stayed eviction/demolition orders during the the lockdown.
The Gujarat High Court on Friday passed an order through video-conferencing, extending the life of all interim orders passed by the courts in the State until June 15, in view of the lockdown necessitated to curb the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). This direction is applicable to all interim orders that were subsisting as of March 19.
The order was passed in a pending batch of PILs which had pressed for various reliefs during the Coronavirus lockdown.
These video hearings give a glimpse about how Court hearings are conducted.
The Bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Ashutosh J Shastri on Friday also extended the life of all orders granting bail or anticipatory bail by a month, apart from staying the orders of eviction, dispossession and demolition until April 30.
Senior Advocate Anshin Desai, assisted by Advocate KR Koshti, and Advocates NB Yusufzai and DK Patel appeared for various petitioners. Counsel Sikander Saiyed, Tatvam K Patel and SS Acharya appeared parties-in-person. The State was represented by Advocate General Kamal Trivedi, Government Pleader Manisha L Shah and Public Prosecutor Mitesh Amin.
The directions issued on aspects concerning extension of orders already passed include the following:
All interim orders passed by the Gujarat High Court as well as all the District Courts, Civil Courts, Family Courts, Labour Courts, Industrial Tribunals and all other Tribunals in the State over which this Court has power of superintendence, which have expired on or after 19th March, 2020 or are due to expire on or before 30th April, 2020, will continue to operate upto 15th June, 2020. We, however, make it clear that those interim orders which are not of a limited duration and are to operate till further orders will remain unaffected;
If the Criminal Courts in the State have granted bail orders or anticipatory bail for a limited period which are likely to expire on or before 30th April, 2020, the said orders will stand extended for a period of one month from today;
If any orders of eviction, dispossession or demolition are already passed by the High Court, District or Civil Courts, the same shall remain in abeyance till 30th April, 2020;
Considering the fact that it will be practically impossible for the citizens to approach the Courts for redressal of their grievances for a period of twenty-one days specified in the order of the Ministry of Home Affairs dated 24th March 2020, we sincerely hope that the State Government, Municipal Authorities and the agencies and instrumentalities of the State Government will be slow in taking action of demolition and eviction of persons.
Notably, the Court has also directed if at all any arrests are made amidst the Coronavirus lockdown, the Police should ensure that the arrested person does not suffer from the Coronavirus, thereby putting other prisoners in peril.
The Court observed, that while it cannot pass any blanket order ordering that no arrests be made, "we are of the view that in case any arrest is made during this period and the accused is lodged in a particular jail without ascertaining whether such accused being taken into custody is clean or is a suspect or infected with the Corona Virus, lodging him into jail where already hundreds and thousands of under trial or convicts are lodged, it would be an imminent peril to all the inmates of the particular jail where any new entry suspected or infected of the Corona Virus is introduced."
Therefore the Court has directed the Police to ensure that before any accused is arrested and sent to jail, it is confirmed that he is not a suspect or infected with Coronavirus.
“It is only after such confirmation that an accused be lodged in a particular jail, otherwise the same be avoided for the period of crisis”, the Court said.
On Friday the Court also took on record submissions made for the State of Gujarat and the Gujarat Legal Services Society on the various relief measures that were being taken at present to mitigate the difficulties occasioned by the Coronavirus lockdown.
These measures included those for the transport of stranded persons such as migrant labourers, provisions of essential facilities in shelters, steps to mitigate the hardships faced by vulnerable groups of society including children without support, old age people and differently abled persons, screening activities to detect and treat the Coronavirus, quarantine enforcement, isolation facilities, provision of protective equipment for health workers, raising community awareness, and the decongestion of jails and sanitisation of prisons pursuant to Supreme Court directions.
After detailing the various measures reported to have taken in the matter, the Court on Friday granted a week’s time for the State Government to respond to all or any of the unattended reliefs claimed by the PIL petitioners.
The matters have now been scheduled to be taken up on April 3 through video conferencing at 11 am.
[Read the Order]