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Attempt to murder, dacoity for 'violent' protest? Gujarat HC bail to Rajkot migrants

By Our Representative
The Gujarat High Court has granted bail to 15 migrant workers, who were charged under Sections 307 (attempt to murder) and Section 395 (dacoity) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and put behind bars for participating in violent incidents which took place on May 17, 2020 in Shapar, about 20 kilomtres from Rajkot, for demanding trains to return to their native states.
During the incident, in which thousands of migrant protesters turned violent, a few police personnel and a journalist were reportedly injured. The chaos broke out after the migrants gathered at the Field Marshal School, from where they were supposed to be taken in buses to the Rajkot railway station.
The workers were angry over the lack of proper communication from the district authorities. They blocked the highway and pelted stones on the travellers and police personnel. The applications for regular bail of 15 migrant workers was filed through advocates Anand Yagnik and Pratikkumar Rupala. It came up for hearing before Justice Gita Gopi of the Gujarat High Court on July 7.
Yagnik, during his submission, said that the Shramik Express trains were running from Rajkot, but in order to reach the Rajkot railway station, neither the Shapar Veraval Police Station, nor the district collector, Rajkot, made any arrangement for them. The workers, including the applicant based in Shapar, wanting to go to their respective states were desperate.
The workers, said Yagnik, had duly registered themselves with the Railways to go back to their states. They found that the local revenue and police authorities were indifferent and lethargic towards arranging buses to go from Shapar to the Rajkot railway station on the day the Shramik Express was to leave. Hence, the Shramik Express left without workers.
This, argued Yagnik, enraged the workers as they were completely dependent on police and revenue authorities to avail the services of the Shramik Express. Those who tried to walk on their own from Shapar to Rajkot were arrested for violating the lockdown under various penal provisions of several legislations. Surprisingly, Section 307, i.e. attempt to murder, and Section 395, dacoity,were alleged against the migrant workers.
Yagnik continued, the workers had no intention or motive to kill any police personnel and it was only a sudden flareup, which led to chaos. No police personnel was admitted in the hospital even for a day, even as several workers were badly injured. He added, apart from Sections 307 and 395, all other offences registered against the migrant workers were bailable.
Many migrant workers, who were arrested, were not even present at the scene of offence, said Yagnik, citing directions by the Supreme Court to consider withdrawing cases against the workers who have violated the measures of lockdown, requesting the Gujarat High Court to to consider granting bail to the applicants.
Local revenue and police authorities were indifferent and lethargic towards arranging buses to go from Shapar to the Rajkot railway
The State government opposed the bail plea on the grounds that police personnel were badly injured during the incident and that the video camera of a journalist was taken away by the migrant workers. It was further argued that public property, police as well as private vehicles were damaged by workers, and therefore the bail plea should be rejected.
The Gujarat High Court, while allowing bail to the 15 migrant workers, said, it was deciding this on the ground that sentiments of the migrant labourers were at an all time high on account of the prevailing situation, when they wished to return to their native states as early as possible.
In her order, Justice Gita Gopi also said that the police had failed to “manage/control” the situation appropriately, adding, the entire incident could have been “averted” if there would have been proper coordination between the police and the Nodal Officers appointed for ensuring that the workers reached the Rajkot railway station.
Referring to the Apex Court judgment, which had asked all states/UTs to consider withdrawal of complaints/prosecution under the Disaster Management Act and other related offences lodged against the migrant labourers, who are alleged to have violated measures of lockdown by moving onroads, the order said, the police was required to handle the crowd tactfully.
The court said, “Taking into consideration the fact that there would not have been any intention on the part of the migrant labourers to even attempt to murder, the police personnel and considering the injuries sustained by the police personnel which were not life threatening, the discretion is exercised to enlarge them on bail.”
The 15 migrant workers were ordered to be released on regular bail on on executing personal bond of Rs 1,000 by each of the applicants” but under the condition that they shall not take undue advantage of their liberty, not act in a manner injurious to the interest of the prosecution, furnish the present address of residence, and not change the residence without prior permission of the concerned trial court.

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