The Karnataka High Court has sought response from the government while hearing a petition questioning the breach of social distancing guidelines at the wedding ceremony of Nikhil Kumaraswamy, son of former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy.
The Court has asked both the Central and state governments to clarify if a marriage function attended by 80-90 persons can be held during the Coronavirus Lockdown. The Court has also inquired about the number of Movement Passes granted for inter-district travel of guests who had attended the marriage function on April 17th.
The Court had taken note of the issue in April when an email petition was received complaining about the breach of the guidelines concerning the social distancing in a marriage ceremony held in the house of a prominent political leader and had sought response of the state government on the issue.
A Division Bench of the High Court comprising of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka & Justice BV Nagarathna has asked the Central Government and State Government to make categorical statements regarding whether on April 17th 2020, a marriage function could have been allowed to be officially held, by the Deputy Commissioner by granting permission to hold marriage ceremony which was to be attended by 80-90 persons.
The Court was also surprised to observe that the District Magistrate while having the power to grant permission for holding of marriage ceremony, omitted to mention any ceiling on the number of guests attending the marriage function.
It was submitted before the Court that 80-90 persons attended the wedding and precautions such as thermal screening of guests were undertaken. The state government contended that the District Magistrate was authorized to grant permission to hold marriages and funerals, based on orders issued by Ministry of Home Affairs.
The Court observed that the May 1st order of the Ministry of Home Affairs, specifically stated that marriages related gatherings shall ensure social distancing, and maximum number of guests allowed shall not be more than 50. The Court also warned the state government that permitting such functions would defeat the purpose of the nation-wide lockdown, which is now into its seventh week.
The bench before parting with the case said that, “We make it clear that we are not on one individual function already held on 17th April 2020. But we are on the question of State Government permitting such functions which prima facie will defeat the very object of imposing lockdown and introducing several prohibitions. If the policy of the Central Government and State Government is to permit holding of such marriage functions which can be attended by more than 50 persons, the Government must say so in writing so that all the citizens will be entitled to benefit of the said facility.”
-India Legal Bureau