The High Court of Karnataka on Monday ordered issue of notice to the State government on a PIL petition challenging a recent amendment to compound all criminal offences, registered under the Karnataka Epidemic Diseases (KED) Act, 2020, without leaving any discretion to the courts.
A Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Suraj Govindaraj, passed the order on the petition filed by Letzkit Foundation, a city-based organisation.
By incorporating a provision for compounding all offences committed under the KED Act, the government has only ensured that the “interest of political leaders of all the parties are not effected”, the petitioner said.
The petitioner has pointed out that it was this political class of society, facing prosecution after the HC in another petition filed by the petitioner on failure to adhere to COVID-19 norms by political leaders, had questioned about non-prosecution of political leaders under the law.
A judge of the trial court, before whom the offenders apply for compounding of the offences alleged, has no choice but to compound them as no discretion is left to them to compound the offences or not. On the contrary, the amended provisions give discretion to the alleged offenders to seek compounding of offence on paying penal fee even if they were instrumental in spreading COVID-19 in the present circumstances, the petitioner has claimed.
“...to the knowledge of the petitioner no case is pending either filed or to be investigated for an offence punishable under the provisions of the Act against a common citizen....there are dozens of cases pending investigation against VIPs and Celebrities. Thus, the very fact of giving retrospective validity to the amended provision is only to ensure that none of such VIPs are punished by a court of law,” the petitioner has alleged.
Meanwhile, the Bench asked the State government how it can allow organisers of rallies, in which thousands of people violate COVID-19 norms, get away by merely collecting meagre compounding fee from them. Why can the compounding fee not be be collected from every violators or compounding fee on behalf of every violators be collected from the organisers of the rallies, the Bench asked, while adjourning further hearing on both the petitions.