Now no politician or minister will be able to hold any public function in Maharashtra till the state eases the lockdown restrictions. The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court of Justices Ravindra Ghuge and Bhalachandra Debadwar on Wednesday issued this order after it was brought to their notice that Sandipanrao Bhumre, Maharashtra cabinet minister for Employment Guarantee & Horticulture, had violated lockdown rules and regulations to hold a series of public functions recently at his constituency in Paithan.
The bench which was hearing a suo motu Public Interest Litigation was shown newspaper reports of Bhumre holding public functions where people had come out in large numbers.
“We are pained to note that cabinet minister Sandipanrao Bhumre is physically holding ceremonies in his constituency,” said Justice Ghuge. “Is it that the lockdown restrictions or orders passed by the court are only meant for the poor and politicians are above the law. Is it that the politicians have the right to treat the law and our orders as a waste paper?,” questioned the bench.
The question that arises is why did the minister hold several functions by physical attendance, noted the bench and further questioned, “Is he not duty bound to obey the diktats of the Chief Minister who has appealed to both public and people’s representatives to refrain from holding functions physically?”
Do we not realise that the citizens of our country gather in large number when people’s representatives make a physical presence for a inauguration or bhoomi pujan, the bench further questioned. “We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that the minister gave his consent for these programmes. And photographs show that he has worn his mask below the nose, or covering the chin or in some has not worn a mask,” the bench noted.
“We are called upon to face a peculiar and weird situation of people’s representative, and politicians and ministers flouting lockdown restrictions and conducting public functions physically by making a farce of appealing to the public to not attend such function,” the bench observed and directed that no politician or minister should hold any public function.
The bench then also took note of an intervention application filed by advocate Yuvraj Kakade which pointed out that an FIR was filed against the ceremonies conducted by Bhumre, but Bhumre’s name was not added in the FIR as an accused.
An FIR bearing was registered on May 9, 2021 at the behest of an informant Vishal Subash Wankhede against a few leaders of the village were the ceremonies were held but did not have the name of Bhumre. The bench noted that assistant police inspector Ganesh Survase had “shrewdly” noted down in the FIR that “despite appeals of the minister against physical gathering, the villagers had gathered for the ceremony” and was “prima facie recorded to give a clean chit to the minister.”
The bench is scheduled to hear the matter on Thursday.