Some 300 people arrested in Karachi for violating the ongoing lockdown restrictions and standard operating procedures (SOPs) to curb the spread of the coronavirus were released by a local court on "humanitarian grounds" on Monday.
Police had arrested nearly 300 men for allegedly breaching Covid-19 SOPs in different areas of the city's South district.
They were booked in several First Information Reports registered under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
On Monday, investigating officers produced the suspects before judicial magistrate (South) Uzair Ali Khan to seek their physical remand in police custody for interrogation and investigation.
The judge expressed his displeasure at the police authorities for producing the suspects in the court without providing them face masks.
He noted that police themselves were flouting the SOPs, and wondered why they should also not be arrested for committing violations of the health guidelines.
The judge inquired from the investigation officers as to who had ordered registration of the FIRs against citizens under Section 188 of the PPC and directed him to submit a written reply in this regard on the next date.
Section 188 reads: “if such disobedience causes or tends to cause danger to human life, health or safety, or causes or tends to cause a riot or affray, [that person] shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to Rs3,000 or with both.”
The judge observed that the officers who had ordered registration of such FIRs will be summoned to furnish an explanation.
In the meanwhile, the judge declared the FIRs lodged against the suspects as “null and void” and ordered the release of all of them on humanitarian grounds.
The development comes a day after the country went under a partial lockdown to prevent a surge in coronavirus cases as Eidul Fitr approaches.
On Sunday, all commercial and business activities, government and private offices as well as passenger transport services in Karachi remained suspended as part of the National Command and Operation Centre’s ‘stay home-stay safe’ restrictions that will remain in place till May 16 to control further spread of the virus.
In Karachi, all major thoroughfares wore a deserted look during the first half of the day amid hot and humid weather.
Only grocery, meat and vegetable shops, medical stores, bakeries, milk shops, and fuel stations were open. Fruit vendors were also allowed to work and so were food outlets, eateries and restaurants which remained open only for home deliveries.
Ports and vaccination centres remained operational on Sunday.