Lockdown not only restricted the movement of people but also locked out the fate of runaway couples as they got only faint hope of help from courts. Getting married during the lockdown landed a Faridabad based runaway couple into trouble as a local court ordered that there should be an FIR against the couple and priest as both violated the lockdown as ordered by the instructions of the Union of India as well as the district magistrate. The couple, however, heaved a sigh of relief after the Punjab and Haryana high court stayed the investigation of the FIR registered against them at Faridabad.

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Facts in Brief:

  • The couple, Lokesh Garg and Sonia, had got married on May 7 with the help of a priest in a local temple against the wishes of their parents.
  • Fearing threats to their life, they approached the local court seeking directions to protect their life and liberty from their families and relatives.
  • On May 14, Additional Sessions Court judge found it a prima facie case of violation of lockdown as the couple had got married during the lockdown without permission from the authorities.
  • The couple challenged the decision of the Additional Sessions Court in Punjab and Haryana high Chandigarh

Legal Stand Point:

Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code:

Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant.—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 person lawfully employed, be punished with simple impris­onment for a term which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both; and if such disobedience causes or trends 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 one thousand rupees, or with both.

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 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.

 Illustration-An order is promulgated by a public servant lawfully empowered to promulgate such order, directing that a religious procession shall not pass down a certain street. A knowingly disobeys the order, and thereby causes danger of riot. A has committed the offence defined in this section.

Section 269 of the Indian Penal Code:

Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease danger­ous to life.—Whoever unlawfully or negligently does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.

Analysis:

In accordance with the strict interpretation of S. 188 and S. 269, the couple must be held liable for disobedience of the order of public servant and negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life. There were clear instructions by both Ministry of Home Affairs and District Magistrate that movement to be restricted only for essential goods. Movement, for any other purpose, be it for marriage, is not only a violation of the order of public servant but also posesa health risk to other people in this ongoing public health crisis.

A similar case happened in Kerala, where the couple had married by violating the lockdown. In that case, the district court ruled that “Elopement by consenting adults is fine but not if they run away too far in the season of the coronavirus.” It provided the protection to the couple but also ordered the police to register FIR against the couple under S. 188 and 269.

The court passed a similar order in Faridabad. However, Punjab and Haryana stepped in to rescue the couple and stayed the order of Faridabad court to register FIR and initiate an investigation against the couple.

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Such an order was expected. The Punjab and Haryana high court has always been considered a safe haven for runaway couples. In regular times, it daily hears at least 20-30 cases of runaway couples from Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh seeking police protection, apprehending threat to their lives from their family and relatives for choosing their life partners, mostly defying the caste barriers put up by the families.Even in lockdown too, this number has not decreased and remains around 20-25. Punjab and Haryana high court has settled history to provide protection for runaway couple. It was initiated in October 2002 when the then Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana high court, Justice BK Roy set the precedent by granting protection to every runaway couple who approached the high court. From that time, this high court has always come to the rescue of runaway couples. Thus, this order of the high court was expected

Also Read- Love Marriage Protection by High Court

For case specific advice, please contact Punjab Haryana High Court Best/Expert Lawyers Advocates for Love Marriage/Protection/Registration, Chandigarh Panchkula Mohali. Zirakpur Kharar Derabassi

This post is written by Gourav Kathuria

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