Are authorities ‘helpless and incompetent’ to stop Congress padayatra in Karnataka on Mekedatu: HC

Congress supporters participate in the padayatra seeking early implementation of Mekedatu drinking water project, in Kanakapura in Karnataka on January 11, 2022.  

The High Court of Karnataka questioned whether the State Government and its authorities were ‘helpless and totally incompetent’ to stop padayatra by Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) on Mekedatu project when no permission was granted and the guidelines on COVID-19 prohibit such rallies and gatherings.

The court directed the government to explain how it allowed the padayatra to take place and why appropriate action was not taken by the authorities to restrain the KPCC from carrying out the padayatra when the guidelines, issued in view of an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, prohibit such activities.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Suraj Govindaraj issued the directions while hearing a PIL petition filed by Nagendra Prasad A.V., a resident of Bengaluru.

The petitioner had questioned inaction on the part of the State Government in stopping the political rally when guidelines had clearly banned such activities. The bench took up the petition for hearing on an urgent basis as petitioner’s counsel cited health risk posed due to continuation of the rally.

“Do you mean to say that State authorities were helpless to stop the rally?” the bench said when Additional Advocate General R. Subramanya pointed out that no permission was granted to the rally in view of COVID-19 guidelines, and the Deputy Commissioner of Ramanagaram district had on January 6 issued notice to KPCC stating that they cannot hold the rally as no permission was granted, and criminal cases are being registered against the organisers.

“What were you watching.... when permission was not granted... Are you [State authorities] totally incompetent to stop it [rally] knowing fully well that it was not in public interest in the present COVID-19 situation,” the bench questioned orally while asking whether the State Government and the DC of Ramanagaram cannot act sans judicial orders.

The bench directed the KPCC counsel to inform the court whether permission was obtained for the rally, named ‘Namma Neeru Namma Hakku’, and whether KPCC had taken measures in compliance with Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) prescribed by the government to prevent spread of COVID-19.

Senior Advocate Arvind Kamath, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, pointed out that holding a rally in violation of the guidelines has caused serious threat to health of the public at large, and the KPCC is bent upon disobeying the guidelines.

Mr. Kamath pointed out that the rally may turn out to be a ‘super spreader of COVID-19’ in Karnataka as participants from across the State, after attending the rally, are going back to their native places posing risk of spreading the virus in case they were infected during the rally.

It was also alleged that children of various government schools were made to participate in the rally.

The court adjourned further hearing till January 14, asking both the government and the KPCC to submit their responses.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 2:24:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/are-authorities-helpless-and-incompetent-to-stop-congress-padayatra-in-karnataka-on-mekedatu-hc/article38248372.ece

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