In a suo moto case, taking cognizance of the national lockdown in place due to outbreak of COVID-19, a Kerala High Court bench comprising of Chief Justice S Manikumar, Justices C K Abdul Rehim and C T Ravikumar gave a few directions with respect to criminal justice system in the state.
Firstly, the court extended all interim orders passed by it in all cases by one month keeping in mind that litigants will not be able to approach the courts to extend the same. All recovery proceedings as well have been halted.
With respect to criminal matter, the court extended interim orders in bail and anticipatory bail cases by one month. Further, the court took cognizance of the fact that hardship is faced by the court staff as well as the staff attached to counsels, litigants and due regard needs to be given to their personal liberty under Article 21. Further, the court held, “right of personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India should not, at any rate, be infringed by arresting an accused, except in matters where arrest is inevitable. However, the State is at liberty to take appropriate decision in respect of heinous/serious offences and in rest of the cases, State may act accordingly.”
The court also directed that in the event of any arrest, Constitutional obligation under Article 20(2) shall be followed in letter and spirit. Also taking up the issue of over-crowding in prisons, the court directed Magistrates/Judges before whom the accused is produced, depending upon the nature of offence, shall consider as to whether judicial/police custody is required or not. The court emphasized on the principle of “Bail is the rule, jail is an exception”.
However, the above directions are not made applicable to subjects relating public order/law and order and any action taken by the State Government to combat the outbreak of COVID-19 and actions taken thereof.
The Court’s order can be read here: