The Kerala High Court on Monday took suo motu cognisance of reports of police brutality against those breaking the lockdown norms, and said it cannot allow fundamental rights of citizens to be infringed, reported LiveLaw. The lockdown has been in place since March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus in India.
A bench of Justices AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Shaji P Chaly issued notices to the state authorities as well as the Centre regarding unwarranted police excesses in the first few days of the three-week lockdown.
The court observed that social distancing was necessary to break the chain of transmission of the virus and therefore police personnel were deployed to restrict unnecessary movement. However, it added that “excesses committed by the police personnel in the course of discharge of their duties” cannot be ignored.
“Amidst the din of the pandemic that engulfs us all, our laws cannot remain silent,” the court said. “They must continue to operate so as to protect the rights of our citizens. It is well established in our jurisprudence that the fundamental right to life and personal liberty, under Article 21 of our Constitution, cannot be suspended even during an emergency. As the sentinel on the qui vive, this court must be alert to the cries of the citizenry, alleging violation of their Constitutional rights.”
It added that it will take cognisance of the matter to ensure that implementation of the coronavirus lockdown in Kerala is done under the judiciary’s watch. “We have also to allay the fear amongst the citizenry as regards infringement of their fundamental rights,” the court said.
“We are therefore of the view that the implementation of the lockdown in this state, by the Central or state authorities, must be under the watchful eyes of the judiciary and, towards this end, we deem it appropriate to institute this suo motu proceedings to monitor state action during the lockdown period.”
Several instances of police officials allegedly punishing or assaulting people out on streets, or tipping over vegetable carts, have emerged from many states since the lockdown was announced. Police in Patna had last week arrested three police officials for shooting at the driver of a vehicle carrying potatoes, and demanding a bribe of Rs 5,000. In central Delhi’s Ranjit Nagar area, a police constable was seen overturning vegetable carts, and bullying the sellers for violating lockdown guidelines. The constable, identified as Rajbir, was suspended on Thursday after the video was shared on social media.