Bombay High Court: Right to Dignity cannot be sacrificed to enforce Lockdown Directives

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The Bombay High Court in the case of Sandip Madhu Nair v. State, the Home Dept. & Ors on 8th May 2020 upheld that supremacy of right to human dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution and held that the same cannot be compromised even in exceptional circumstances to attain the desired result.

Brief facts of the Case

The Counsel for the petitioner Mr. Anil Kamale had brought forth before the Bombay High Court the distressing situation where certain police personnel in anxiety to strictly enforce the lockdown directives are guilty of gross violation of human rights.

The petitioner contended that those individuals including some senior citizens on morning walks, who violated the lockdown directives were met with inhuman indignities. They were photographed holding placards which declared them an enemy of the nation, society, family and humanity. Such photographs of elderly citizens and respected professionals were eventually published in prominent newspapers and have since gone viral on the internet.

Arguments of the Petitioner

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The petitioner submitted that while the police personnel were entitled to take all measures within the bounds of the law to enforce the lockdown, however subjecting the violators to humiliating treatment such as the above was a gross violation of human rights and infringement of the right to human dignity guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Arguments of the Respondent

The learned Additional Government Pleader KS Jhoshi responded by admitting that while such instances did occur in the first phase of the lockdown, however, the humiliating photographs were not published by the police.

It was further stated that on the issue of whether the photographs were indeed clicked by police personnel, the facts remain unclear. As such a statement regarding the same will be made in the next hearing.

Court’s Order

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The order is given by Justice Rohit B. Deo. The Court held that while it had no reason to suspect the intentions of the police but at the same time, “human dignity and rights cannot be sacrificed at the alter of extraordinary situations nor can the constitutional right to a dignified life be hostage to supposed intentions.” It further stated that “the end does not necessarily justify the means” and the police personnel must be alive to the fact that ours is a civilized society governed by the rule of law.

The Court further requested the Police Commissioner Shri Upadhye to sensitise the personnel under his command and ensure that such sordid incidents do not occur again in the future. It directed that no extra-legal measures or punishments would be resorted to enforcing the lockdown.

The police machinery has sufficient power under the existing provisions of law which would enable strict enforcement of the lockdown directives. It was also stated that should a single such incident be noticed in the future, the Police Commissioner is expected to hold accountable the senior officer within whose jurisdiction the incident has occurred.

The matter is expected to be taken up next on 21st May 2020.


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