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March 25, 2020

Over 100 held for defying govt’s COVID-19 steps let go by court

Karachi

March 25, 2020

The city courts on Tuesday released more than 100 people who were arrested by the Karachi police in connection with violating the Sindh government’s lockdown orders issued in view of the coronavirus emergency imposed across the province since 12am on Monday.

The citizens who had defied the official instructions were presented before the respective judicial magistrates in the East, West, South, Central and Malir districts of the metropolitan city.

All of these suspects were booked under Section 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The magistrates ordered their release on personal sureties and directed them to appear when they were summoned in court again for the disposal of their cases.

Failing to do so may cause them to face strict action, including imprisonment. Section 188 of the PPC reads: “Whoever, knowing that, by an order promulgated by a public servant lawfully empowered to promulgate such order, he is directed to abstain from a certain act, or to take certain order with certain property in his possession or under his management, disobeys such direction, shall, if such disobedience causes or tends to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury or risk of obstruction, annoyance or injury, to any persons lawfully employed, be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to six hundred rupees, or with both; and if such disobedience causes or tends to cause danger to human life, health or safety, or causes or tends to cause a riot or affray, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to three thousand rupees, or with both.”

Explanation

It is not necessary that the offender should intend to produce harm, or contemplate his disobedience as likely to produce harm. It is sufficient that he knows of the order which he disobeys, and that his disobedience produces, or is likely to produce harm.

Objection

Judicial Magistrate (West) Asif Ali Abbasi raised an objection over the implications in Section 188 and under Schedule-II of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), saying that the permission of the relevant court was necessary before registering such a case.

He added that Section 188 dealt with non-cognisable offences, and that no arrest could be made under it without the execution of a warrant from the relevant court.

Citing Section 155 (Information in non-cognisable cases) of the CrPC, Abbasi said the police could only inform the court about such an offence. The section reads: “When information is given to an officer incharge of a police station of the commission within the limits of such station of a non­cognisable offence, he shall enter in a book to be kept as aforesaid the substance of such information and refer the informant to the magistrate.”

Lack of safety

The suspects were brought to the courts in an unsafe manner. They were crammed into police mobiles and were provided with no masks for their protection. A policeman escorting them said the law enforcement department was already short of masks, sanitisers and other safety supplies.