In the High Court of Punjab And Haryana, the present case has been taken up for hearing through video-conferencing, where the bail of the petitioner was kept on hold due to the lockdown and the curfew imposed in the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19. A prayer in the petition has been filed under Section 482 [Saving the inherent power of High Court] Cr.P.C, for:
a) For issuance of appropriate directions to the subordinate judicial authorities and local administration for better coordination.
b) To work according to the guidelines issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and this Court.
The case of the petitioner was registered under Sections 379 & 411 IPC, at Police Station, Sector 39, Chandigarh. He was granted regular bail by the Additional District Judge, Chandigarh on 19.02.2020. Still further, in another case bearing registered under Section 379-B IPC at Police Station Sadar, Kharar, the petitioner was granted regular bail on 23.03.2020 by the Session Judge, SAS Nagar.
It is, however, stated that the said orders have neither been uploaded nor copies thereof have been provided to the petitioner. It is, thus, pleaded that, in utter ignorance of the orders granting regular bail to the petitioner, he has, till date, not been released on bail.
In this background, the petitioner has besides, making prayer for his release on bail, also prayed for issuance of various other directions:
- To issue a reliable channel or contact number/emails to be flashed and circulated among the general public,
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To update all the contacts of Judicial Officers on duty on respective days along with their contact numbers/email and address(es) on the official website of the concerned District,
To keep the websites of local administration and subordinate judiciary up-to-date with all the recent developments like updating case status, next business date and uploading or handing over the orders passed before or on the date, the lockdown was announced. etc.
During the course of hearing, learned counsel for the petitioner drew the attention of the Court towards the notice uploaded dated 25.03.2020, on the website of the SAS Nagar, which would read as under: –
“Most Urgent notification: As per directions of Hon’ble District and Sessions Judge, SAS Nagar, all officers and staff are directed not to attend court and work from home, in view of restrictions imposed in curfew. No fresh filing would be accepted and if any stay matter or bail application is received at duty officer’s house, he/she may pass appropriate order accordingly, in the matter. Cases, if not taken up yet due to curfew, will be taken up as and when there would be any relaxation in the curfew. In case of any emergency, contact Superintendent/CJM/ ADJ1/ Ldl. District and Session Judge, SAS Nagar Mohali.”
However, no detail of the telephone numbers and emails, of the officers on duties was provided. On account of the outbreak of Pandemic COVID-19, and further taking into consideration the guidelines issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, all the states were directed to consider releasing some prisoners, who have already been granted bail either by this Court or by the Subordinate Courts on parole, to reduce overcrowding in prisons.
When the situation turns normal, the accused would be bound to furnish surety bonds/bail bonds. In such process, all the District & Sessions Judges, the Directors General of Prisons and the Jail, Superintendents of all the three states of Punjab, Haryana and the U.T., are directed to comply with the directives issued by the Courts.
Still, further, all the authorities shall make a mechanism, clearly providing on their official websites, the contact numbers and e-mails of the CJMs/Duty Magistrates or other Judicial Officers on duties so that the compliance of the orders granting bail or orders passed could be made, before or on the date of lockdown. However, while doing so, there shall be strict compliance of the precautionary measures as circulated by the Court in the wake of Pandemic COVID-19.
A copy of this order to be circulated amongst all for strict compliance.
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