Mumbai: The Bombay High Court (HC) on Wednesday directed the state government to file an “appropriate” reply to a PIL that has challenged its decision to withdraw cases against organisers and participants of bullock cart races when they were banned. A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Abhay Ahuja was hearing a PIL filed by Navi Mumbai resident Ajay Marathe seeking quashing of the April 13 Government Resolution (GR).
The Supreme Court (SC), in December 2021, had allowed the resumption of bullock cart racing in Maharashtra, subject to conditions, which had been prohibited in the state since 2017. The April 13 GR was issued following a cabinet decision on March 31 wherein it was decided to withdraw cases against the organisers and participants of bullock cart races when there was a ban on such events. A committee was formed for the same under the chairmanship of the commissioner of police and collector at the regional level.
According to the GR, upon recommendation of the committee for withdrawal, the public prosecutor (PP) concerned shall bring it to the notice of the court concerned. The court's decision would then be conveyed by the PP to the committee and the director of prosecution.
According to the PIL, under section 321 (withdrawal from prosecution) of Criminal Procedure Code, the PP in charge of a case, with the consent of the court before pronouncement of judgment, can take a decision to withdraw the case against a person. The April 13 GR states that upon recommendation of withdrawal by the regional committee, the PP shall immediately bring it to the notice of the court.
Advocate Preet Phanse for the petitioner argued that under section 321, the PP has to form an opinion “on a case-to-case basis and not act mechanically” on the recommendation of the committee.
Additional government pleader PP Kakade submitted a corrigendum of a clause in respect of cases that do not include cases against former and sitting MPs and MLAs. It stated that “upon recommendation of the committee for withdrawal, the prosecutor shall take an appropriate decision as per section 321 CrPC and take further steps.”
The HC has asked the government to file a reply before the next date of hearing on Jan 12, 2023.
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