Treat as representation: Delhi HC on PIL challenging ‘Unbridled’ powers of Civil Defence Volunteers

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On Monday, the High Court of Delhi directed the authorities concern to treat as a representation a public suit seeking direction to the Delhi Govt & the Delhi Disaster Management Authority to regulate the unbridled powers given to civil defence volunteers in Delhi.

A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel & Justice Prateek Jalan, after hearing the submission of petitioner’s lawyer Arpit Bhargava, directed the respondent authorities to treat the plea as representation according to the law, rules, regulations & Govt policies.

The public interest litigation (PIL), filed by one Amrita Dhawan, sought directions to disallow male Civil Defence Volunteers to take photographs of women in terms of the Delhi Epidemic Diseases (Management of COVID-19) Regulations, 2020 until its revision or formulation of fresh regulations keeping in view safety & security of women in Delhi.

The PIL sought directions to disallow civil defence volunteers from wearing ‘khaki’ uniforms & allow such uniform, which should be clearly distinguishable in colour from that of the police. It sought to introduce multiple payment modes for accepting fines for Covid guideline violations.

It said that the Delhi government enrolled more than 12,000 civil defence volunteers in the month of June 2020 for various tasks, & added that in the guise of showing urgency to tackle COVID-19 pandemic, the government postponed the training & verification process of such volunteers until the COVID-19 pandemic subsided,

The Govt of Delhi authorised these civil defence volunteers to impose fines or penalties in contrary to the law & encroaching upon the domain of police & other officials, the petition said.

The plea raised questions whether the clicking of photographs of women by male civil defence volunteers from their private mobile phones is regulated by the Delhi Govt or any other agency. If not, whether such acts amount to an offence under Section 354C or 354D (pertaining to capturing images of women) of the Indian Penal Code, it asked.

The plea said the respondents have failed to address the issue of whether male civil defence volunteer can challan & compel women to visit Police Station after sunset in case she has no cash to pay towards fine.

The plea said that there is no mechanism as on date in case women wishes to pay fine online or through alternative mode & avoid undue harassment at the hands of male civil defence volunteer.

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