On Tuesday, 30th June 2020, Bombay High Court, on reviewing a Public Interest Litigation filed by a lawyer regarding incidents of police brutality in Mumbai during lockdown imposed due to COVID- 19 pandemic, asked the Maharashtra State Government to answer the concerns raised.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice MS Karnik entertained a PIL filed by advocate Firdaus Irani, an advocate and activist, who alleged that a group of men in plain clothes along with some policemen and MCGM officers assaulted him, his wife and his two sons outside their residence in Goregaon. He stated that on 16th April 2020, he arrived in front of his residence along with his wife and saw that a group of men in normal clothes along with uniformed policemen and MCGM officers were shooing away hawkers and when he started to walk towards his house with his wife, a man in normal clothes having lathi in hand charged at his hurling abuses. Soon ten others joined him and started threatening the petitioner. His two sons came to defend him, but they were outnumbered. Subsequently, the petitioner, his wife, and his two sons were beaten up in the courtyard of the house.
The petitioner stated that he tried to file a FIR against those officials and men but istead, he was issued a notice under Section 41A (1) of Code of Criminal Procedure for committing offenses under Section 188, Section 269 and Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. In addition to this, it was alleged that the police officials had terrorized the residents in the Goregaon area and took heavy bribes, which were estimated between 5000 and 25000 from shopkeepers to let them keep their shops open all day and illegal and unauthorized street hawkers were also allowed to sell goods with impunity. The PIL stated, “The root cause responsible for the rise in these rogue elements within the police machinery can be clearly pointed to the toothless implementation of the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in the case of Parkash Singh &Ors. v. Union of India & Ors.” The Petitioner also mentioned a report by a human rights organization that stated that a total of fifteen people died across the country due to police brutalities committed during the lockdown, two cases amongst which were in Mumbai. Assistant Government Pleader Jyoti Chavan appeared on behalf of State Government and opposed the prayers in the PIL and submitted that these were one-off incidents and that police authorities are performing their duties as per the law. The state requested time to file a reply in the matter and the division bench allowed time till Friday, 3rd July 2020, which will be the next date of hearing of this matter. [Read Judgement]