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Judicial Management Of Covid-19 Pandemic Cases:balancing Legal Proceedings And Public Health Concerns

Sanskriti Tiwari ,
  10 February 2024       Share Bookmark

Court :
High Court of Punjab
Brief :

Citation :
CWP PIL 112/2023

CASE NAME:

Court on its own motion vs. State of Punjab and Ors.

CASE DATE:

9th February, 2024

BENCH/JUDGE:-

  • Anupinder Singh Grewal
  • Kirti Singh

 

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:-

  1. Section 188 IPC:-

Relates to disobedience to an order promulgated by a public servant.

 

2. Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897:-

  • Section 2:-

Empowers state governments and other authorities to take special measures and prescribe regulations to contain the outbreak of dangerous epidemic diseases.

 

  • Section 3:-

Provides penalties for those disobeying the regulations or orders made under the Act.

 

  1. Section 51 of Disaster Management Act, 2005:-

Grants powers to take measures for disaster management, including issuing directions.

 

SUBJECT:-

The situation revolves around judicial management of Covid-19 cases involving violations under Section 188 IPC, Epidemic Diseases Act, and Disaster Management Act. The court addresses the burden on the judicial system, considers status reports from states and temporarily stays proceedings in specific cases, emphasizing transparency and an interim balance between legal procedures and public health concerns.

 

OVERVIEW:-

The case revolves around the burden on the judicial system due to a significant number of cases under Section 188 IPC, Epidemic Diseases Act, and Disaster Management Act related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The court, expressing concern on 03.11.2023, considers potential actions to alleviate the situation. The status reports from Punjab, Haryana, and UT, Chandigarh reveal pending and disposed cases. In response, the court, as an interim measure, stays further proceedings in cases under specific sections until the next hearing on 14.03.2024. The High Court complies by providing district-wise case details on its website. The order acknowledges challenges posed by the pandemic and aims to address the situation.

 

ISSUES RAISED BEFORE THE COURT:-

  1. Whether the court should take action across the board to benefit accused individuals whose litigation is not being monitored in the writ petition?
  2. Whether the status reports filed by the learned counsel for the State of Punjab, Haryana, and UT, Chandigarh, regarding pending and disposed cases, should be taken on record?
  3. Whether the court should consider invoking its power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India to quash proceedings in cases registered under Sections 188, 269, 270 IPC, Epidemic Diseases Act, and Disaster Management Act?
  4. Whether the court should stay further proceedings in cases registered under specific sections, without invoking other provisions of the IPC or penal enactments, as an interim measure?

 

CONTENTIONS RAISED BY THE STATES:-

  • The learned counsel for Punjab submits that 5792 cases are pending trial/investigation under Section 188 IPC, Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act, while approximately 12000 of such cases have already been disposed of.
  • The learned counsel for Haryana contends that about 4494 cases are pending trial/investigation under Section 188 IPC, Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act and a substantial number of these cases have already been disposed of.
  • The learned counsel for Chandigarh states that about 114 cases are pending trial/investigation under Section 188 IPC, Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act, while around 974 of such cases have already been disposed of.

 

CONTENTIONS RAISED BY THE RESPONDENT:-

  • The respondent, representing the High Court, submits that in compliance with the directions of the Supreme Court by the order dated 09.11.2023, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has created an independent tab on its website providing district-wise information about the details of special cases pending and the stage of the proceedings.

 

ANALYSIS BY THE COURT:-

  1. The Court expressed concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic which posed an enormous challenge to humanity, leading to a nationwide lockdown with orders issued under Section 188 IPC, Epidemic Diseases Act, and Disaster Management Act.
  2. The court expressed serious apprehension about the clogging of the judicial system due to a large number of cases under the mentioned sections.
  3. Considering the issue of invoking Article 226 of the Constitution of India to quash proceedings, the court deemed it appropriate as an interim measure to stay further proceedings in cases registered under specific sections until the next date of hearing, scheduled for 14.03.2024.

 

JUDGMENT:-

  1. Expressing serious concern about the judicial system's burden, the court acknowledges the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the numerous cases under Section 188 IPC, Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act.
  2. Taking into account the status reports from the learned counsel for the States of Punjab, Haryana and UT, Chandigarh, the court notes the significant number of pending and disposed cases.
  3. Acknowledging the efforts of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in complying with Supreme Court directives by providing district-wise information on its website, the court appreciates transparency in case details.
  4. As an interim measure, the court decides to stay further proceedings in cases registered under Sections 188, 269, 270 IPC, Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act, without invoking other provisions of the IPC or penal enactments, until the next date of hearing scheduled for 14.03.2024.

 

CONCLUSION:-

This judgment aims to alleviate the strain on the judicial system while ensuring fair treatment for the accused. Thus, the court's directive underscores the importance of balancing public health concerns with the need for legal proceedings, emphasizing a pragmatic approach to navigating the complexities arising from the pandemic.  

 

 
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