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The grant of bail and anticipatory bail in the time of COVID-19 has led to some interesting orders from various High Courts. In Madhya Pradesh, the High Court has taken to directing bail/ anticipatory bail applicants to register as "COVID-19 warriors" and to download the Aarogya Setu COVID-19 tracking app to secure their release from prison.
In some orders, the applicants have also been directed to deposit contributions to the Central Government's PM CARES COVID-19 fund.
Over the past two days (Monday and Tuesday), Justices Sheel Nagu and Rajeev Kumar Shrivastava, either sitting singly or as a Division Bench, have passed several orders wherein the bail applicant has been directed to register as a COVID-19 Warrior to secure release from prison.
Similar conditions have been imposed for allowing certain anticpatory bail pleas as well. As per available case information on the Court's website, 22 such orders have been passed.
After ascertaining whether the particular case is fit for the grant of bail or anticipatory bail, the Court in these cases has directed the applicant/petitioner to register themselves with the concerned District Magistrate as a "Covid-19 Warrior" "by entering his name in a Register named as COVID-19 WARRIOR REGISTER."
The Court adds that the persons should be assigned the work of COVID-19 disaster management at the discretion of the concerned District Magistrate while taking all prescribed precautions.
All such orders are similarly phrased, with the Court adding a note that it expects the petitioner or applicant to:
The majority of these orders (16 orders) have been passed by Justice Nagu while sitting singly. Two such orders have been passed by a Division Bench comprising of both Justice Nagu and Justice Shrivastava, whereas Justice Shrivasta has passed at least 4 such orders.
The cases in which such orders have been passed involve a wide range of offences.
Inter alia, charges under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, criminal breach of trust, cheating, mischief, obscenity, offences under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, dacoity, Arms Act offences, Excise Act offences, outraging the modesty of a woman and attempt to murder.
Among other orders, in Mohit Kumar Uchadiya Vs. State of M.P, the Court reasons further that such a condition is being incorporated "so that the human resource in shape of the petitioner can be utilized for the betterment of the society and to ward off the crisis."
In another set of orders passed in petitions concerning bail, anticipatory bail, suspension of sentence and criminal revision, the downloading of the Central Government's Aarogya Setu COVID-19 tracking app has been included as a condition to allow the plea.
As per available case information, over the past two days (Monday and Tuesday) 30 such orders have been passed by Justices Anand Pathak and Sushrut Arvind Dharmadhikari while sitting singly. Whereas Justice Pathak has passed 18 such orders, Justice Dharamadhikari has passed 12.
In one case, the Court has clarified, that the applicant will have to install Aarogya Setu App, "if it can be downloaded in his phone."
Some of these orders also record that the applicants were willing to serve the national cause by making such donations and downloading the app.