The end does not necessarily justify the means, the Bombay High Court said on Friday while directing the city police chief to ensure no person is made to face any unusual or humiliating punishment by his force for violating norms related to the coronavirus-enforced lockdown.
Justice R B Deo, of the Nagpur bench of the HC, made the observation while hearing a petition filed city resident Sandip Nair, raising concerns over the manner in which the local police force had been implementing the lockdown.
The petition contended that while the police force is, by and large, discharging its duties in an exemplary manner, there are several instances which would be a "blot" on the police machinery.
The petitioner pointed out instances where lockdown violators, including senior citizens and women, have been made to hold placards with messages like "they are an enemy to the society and humanity".
Photographs of the violators with such messages are clicked and made viral on social media. Such photos also make their way in newspapers and TV channels, the plea said.
The petitioner argued that while the police were entitled to take all possible measures within the four corners of law to enforce the lockdown, making a humiliating spectacle of the violators is a serious infringement on their basic human and fundamental rights.
The court, after hearing brief arguments, noted that the petition brings to the fore an extremely disturbing and distressing facet of the enforcement of the lockdown directives.
I have come across several news reports highlighting the unusual and humiliating punishments which are meted out by police personnel under the garb of enforcing the lockdown directives, Justice Deo said in the order.
The court said though it does not have any reason to suspect the intent of the police machinery, the end does not necessarily justify the means.
Justice Deo further noted that police personnel who have indulged in blatant violation of human dignity are expected to be aware of the fact that this is a civilised society governed by the rule of law.
While extraordinary situations may call for extraordinary measures, these must have the sanction of law.
Human dignity and rights cannot be sacrificed at the alter of extraordinary situations nor can the constitutional right to a dignified life be hostage to supposed intentions, the court noted.
The court directed the Nagpur police commissioner to sensitise the entire police force to ensure such sordid incidents do not recur.
This court trusts that the top echelons of the police machinery shall ensure that there shall be no further violation of human rights while enforcing the lockdown.
"Should a single such incident is noticed, this court expects the police commissioner to hold the senior officer under whose jurisdiction the incident has occurred, accountable, the court ordered.
The court posted the matter for further hearing on May 21.