New Delhi, Feb 11 : The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to entertain a plea claiming that in Madhya Pradesh, Muslims were the “main object of policing” during the pandemic, and amid Covid, states should take necessary actions to stop the influx of undertrials to prisons in accordance with the top court order in March last year.
The plea contended that in Madhya Pradesh during the lockdown, a majority of arrests were for low level, low/no harm offences and that the top court verdict in Arnesh Kumar vs State of Bihar is not being followed.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, however, asked the petitioner’s counsel to cite specific cases where guidelines laid down in the Arnesh Kumar case were being breached.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing Ameya Bokil and others, contended before the bench that it was found that most of the FIRs were filed against people on the streets – pedestrians and persons on two-wheelers.
The plea argued that the proportion of FIRs against pedestrians who are low-risk offenders, increased from 50.28 per cent in the first and second lockdown to 89 per cent during the third lockdown.
However, the Chief Justice told Gonsalves that the petitioners’ claims are based on a survey, instead of concrete facts, where it is established that Arnesh Kumar verdict was not followed.
“There is a difference between concrete case and a survey,” the Chief Justice said.
As Gonsalves held that these are concrete cases, the bench rebutted him, saying that petitioners’ claims are based on a survey.
“Come to us with concrete facts,” said the bench. As Gonsalves continued to argue, the Chief Justice said: “Let me put on record, why don’t you withdraw and file a fresh petition.”
The top court in its order said: “Learned counsel for the petitioners seeks permission to withdraw the writ petition with liberty to file a fresh petition. Permission is granted. The writ petition is dismissed as withdrawn with liberty as prayed for.”
According to the plea, “during the lockdown, 24.45 per cent of all arrested persons were Muslims. 21.5 per cent of the accused persons in FIRs were also Muslims. Given that Muslims account for a mere 6.57 per cent of the population in MP, it is clear that Muslims were the ‘main object of policing’ during the pandemic”.
The plea said in the Arnesh Kumar verdict, the top court had stated that no arrest shall be made unnecessarily by the police and the magistrate shall not authorise detention casually and mechanically and in particular, in relation to offences punishable by an imprisonment of seven years or less.
The petitioners claimed that Madhya Pradesh had previously amended Indian Penal Code to make Section 188 non-bailable in the state, which resulted in people being sent to judicial custody for minor low-risk lockdown violations.