The Gujarat High Court on 7th July approved the application of the migrant workers. They were arrested for creating uproar over the delay in their return. It also held the police responsible for failing to manage and coordinate the situation.
The incident happened on 17th May 2020 during the continuance of the nation-wide lock down. The area of Rajkot (Rural) was under Section 144 of CrPC and Section 43 of the Gujarat Police Act. The industrial migrant laborers of Veraval wanted to return to their native States. Arrangements were made for their travel via Shramik trains. The registration process was due to happen on the 17th May. On that day, around 150-200 migrant laborers had gathered in the Field Marshall School.
It is alleged that the laborers created ruckus in the area. They also demanded immediate arrangements for their return. They blocked the road with stones and refused to leave the place. Efforts of the police to pacify the laborers went in vain. One Narbad Valand along with the other 24 accused started instigating the crowd. They went on to misbehave with the officials. They threatened to kill the police persons on duty when asked to go away. The pelting of stones and thrashing with tree branches also followed their threat. This was done with an alleged intention to kill.
The police officials along with other staff sustained minor injuries. The workers ransacked the vehicles of the general public. Some on duty officials sustained injuries near their right eye, knee, finger and back. The crowd also tried to snatch away the camera of a Gujarati journalist covering the event.
The workers were then booked under Sec 143, 147, 148, 149, 325, 332, 337, 338, 307, 395, 427, 431, 188 and 269 of IPC. This was along with Sec 144 of the CrPC, Sec 43 of the Gujarat Police Act and Sec 51 of the Disaster Management Act 2005. Section 3(e) and 7 of the Prevention of Destruction to Public Property Act, 1984 was also pressed. All the accused now seek bail under Section 439 CrPC.
Arguments of the Petitioner
The counsel for the petitioner pointed that the police was aware about the strength of the laborers. It was their duty to make necessary arrangements for their 42 kms journey from Shapar to Rajkot. The lack of basic facilities enraged few migrant laborers. This led to the pelting of stones. The counsel submitted that there was no intention of murdering the police personnel. They only sustained minor injuries.
The counsel submitted that the migrant laborers had gathered there with their luggage. Rage due to lack of arrangements led to the ensuing commotion. This was against the order of the Gujarat Government instructing for orderly movement of the laborers. The counsel prayed for non- invocation Section 307 to prolong incarceration.
Arguments of the Respondent
The counsel for the State vehemently contented that there must be no bail in the matter. The accused laborers instigated the crowd to kill the police persons. Besides, they also vandalised private property and injured a media person. A recorded video of the incidence is evidence. The photographs of the incident show the laborers armed with bricks and stones.
The coram consisted of Justice Gita Gopi. Herein, the Court stated that the Government of India had issued guidelines in the matter. It necessitated coordination between State/UT governments to ensure smooth movement of workers. The Government of Gujarat vide its order dated 29th April, 2020 resolved to the same. Nodal officers work for such purposes. The local authorities knew of the arrival of hundreds of migrant workers. The Court observed that the police displayed lack of coordination with the nodal officers. This lead to the chaotic situation. The Court took note of the fact that the police personnel did not need hospitalization. It took the view that they could avoid the entire incident.
Besides, the Apex Court also asked the States to withdraw all complaints under the Disaster Management Act. This was in respect to the migrant laborers. Considering that the injuries to the personnel were not life-threatening, the Court held that there was no intention to kill.
Hence, the Court granted the bail.
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