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The Karnataka High Court on Friday granted bail to 126 persons accused of attacks on health workers and the police in Bangalore's Padarayanapura area last month amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Karnataka High Court bail order)
The bail order was passed by Justice John Michael Cunha in petitions filed by Vazeer Khan alias Wajid and 125 other accused persons.
The order reads,
"Petitioners are directed to be enlarged on bail on furnishing bond in a sum of Rs.1,00,000/- (Rupees One Lakh only) each with two sureties each for the likesum to the satisfaction of the jurisdictional court."
This apart, the other conditions imposed by the Court includes:
They shall appear before the court as and when required, unless exempted by specific order in that regard.
They shall not threaten or allure the prosecution witnesses in whatsoever manner.
They shall not get involved in similar offences.
After execution of the bonds by the respective petitioners and their sureties, before their physical release, petitioners shall be subjected to medical examination.
If any of the petitioners are found with symptoms of COVID-19, they shall be dealt with as per the guidelines and advisories issued by the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs and Government of Karnataka.
In case the petitioners violate any of the COVID19/Bail conditions, then the State is at liberty to seek for cancellation of the bail of such
The allegations against the petitioners were that on April 19, they had formed an unlawful assembly with an intention to spread the Coronavirus and that they obstructed medical officers from lawfully discharging their official duties. It was also alleged that they assaulted police personnel who were on duty by pelting stones and assaulting them with knives, rods and clubs.
The closure period judge at the City Civil and Sessions Court at Bengaluru had earlier rejected their bail application on the ground that the facts and allegations made in the FIR reveal that on the date of the incident, all the petitioners were armed with deadly weapons, damaged public property, and caused injury to public servants.
The lower court had also observed that the accused persons were motivated to commit rioting, and in the process, assaulted public servants and violated orders passed by the government.
Aggrieved by this order, the petitioners approached the High Court.
Arguments of Parties
Senior Advocate CV Nagesh, appearing for the petitioners before the High Court, pointed out that none of his clients were named in the FIR and that all the accused persons were arrested based on suspicion. He submitted that there was absolutely no material to sustain the charge under Section 307 (attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Nagesh further argued that the other offences alleged against the petitioners are punishable with imprisonment of not more than three years.
Opposing the the bail applications, special public prosecutor VM Sheelavant contended that prima facie material had been collected establishing the presence of the petitioners at the spot of the incident.
Additionally, it was argued that the petitioners were found indulging in similar offences at five different places in respect of which five cases have been registered against them. The State also informed the Court that during the occurrence, the complainant and other witnesses had also suffered grievous injuries.
Among the petitioners, seven tested positive for COVID- 19 and hence, releasing them on bail might increase the chances of the virus spreading, the State further argued.
Findings of the Court
At the outset, the Court observed that though it was stated that the application filed by the investigating agency under Section 173(8) of the Code of Criminal Procedure was pending consideration of the trial court, having regard to the material collected in the case, there was no need for the petitioners' to continue being in custody.
The fact that seven of the accused are COVID-19 positive, cannot be a ground to deny bail to them, the Court held.
Karnataka High Court
On a perusal of the charge sheet, the Court noted that the witnesses cited in the charge sheet - apart from four medical officers - were police witnesses and not a single person from the general public had been cited as a witness to the alleged occurrence.
Relying on the statements of the four medical officers who were witnesses, the Court observed,
"This statement may amount to unlawful obstruction caused by the mob consisting of 50 to 60 persons from discharging the official duties by CWs.2 to 4, but these witnesses have nowhere stated in their statements that during the occurrence, either the said mob consisting of 50 to 60 persons or any other members of the unlawful assembly pelted stones at the police or assaulted them."
On perusal of the property form produced along with the charge sheet, the Court noted that two broken plastic chairs and two clubs and a stone were seized from the spot of occurrence on April 20. This goes against the very case of the prosecution that the entire mob was armed with deadly weapons and had assaulted number of police personnel with deadly weapons causing grievous injuries, Justice Cunha remarked.
This apart, the Court went on to state that in the present case, the records show that without ascertaining the identity of the accused, petitioners have been sent for trial.
Therefore, the Court ultimately held,
Karnataka High Court
Read Judgment here