Bombay High Court: Quarantine Facilities cannot be used for Preventive Detention or as a Punitive Measure

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On 5th May 2020, the Bombay High Court passed an order in the case of Mahendra Singh v. Commissioner of Police & Ors.  It barred the use of quarantine centres to hold people who the police considered as a nuisance.

Brief Facts of the Case 

Mr. K. Narayanan is the President of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). He was distributing food and essential supplies to migrant workers in the lockdown. Besides this, the CITU had called for a national protest. It was to show the deteriorating condition of the migrant workers. The protest was to take place on 21st April. 

According to the present petition, the petitioner was working on that day. He along with his colleagues were distributing food and other essential supplies. They also followed the Social distancing norms. They were also carrying flags/placards to distribute in protest proceedings. 

Further, the petition states that the petitioner had a rough relationship with Mr.Ganame. He is the Senior P.I. of D.N. Nagar Police Station. Further, P.I. detained the Petitioner without any reason on 21st April. Mr. Ganame without reason asked Mr. Narayanan to proceed to the Police Station. Mr. Abhishek Trimukhe, DCP, Zone-IX was present along with him.

Thereafter, the police took Mr. Narayanan to a private lab. The Lab tested him for the Virus but he didn’t have any symptoms. The quarantine facility then took him. He also didn’t get the copy of the test reports.  

His colleagues got the results independently from the lab and found it to be negative. The Facility has told the Petitioner not to carry his mobile phone inside.  The police charged him with Sections 188, 269 and 270 of IPC. Section 51(B) of the National Disaster Management Act and Section 11 of the COVID-19 Regulations were also imposed. However, all these are bailable offences. The petition alleged that Mr. Narayanan was malafidely sent to the quarantine facility. He was also held beyond the prescribed 14 days period despite testing negative. This is attributed to the animosity of the P.I. with the petitioner.

Court’s Decision

Coram- Justice Revati Mohite Dere

The Court found it difficult to believe the respondent. The argument of the A.P.P. stating that the petitioner handed over his phone to the police was preposterous. The A.P.P. was also unable to produce a circular barring a person from carrying his phone to the quarantine centre. The Court observed that the police had no explanation to hold the petitioner beyond 14 days . The corporation handling the quarantine facility waited for the instructions of the police. The Court questioned its intention about the same. 

The Court held that the petition alleging malafide confinement prima facie held substance. Since there was no impediment on Mr. Narayan’s release on the same day, the Court disposed off the said petition. The Court held that “quarantine facilities cannot be used by the Police to keep away people, who according to them, are of nuisance value.” The police cannot use it as preventive detention or as a punitive measure.


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