On Thursday, the Patna High Court took suo moto cognizance on the viral heart-rending video showing a toddler trying to wake up his dead mother by pulling the makeshift shroud at the Muzaffarpur Railway Station in Bihar.
Describing the incident as “rather shocking and unfortunate”, the Patna High Court bench comprising of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar stated that the incident warranted the intervention of High Court and accordingly took suo moto cognizance of the news reports after the matter was brought to their notice during a hearing.
“If the contents of the news items are correct, of which we have no reason to disbelieve, for the paper being of national repute having wider circulation, then the incident is rather shocking and unfortunate. This warrants intervention by us in the exercise of our jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and as such we take suo moto cognizance of the news item and issue notice,” stated the bench. Meanwhile, the Government informed the High Court that the “Mother shown in the video was mentally unstable and died a natural death.”
The incident was brought to the notice of the Chief Justice by Justice S. Kumar during a hearing via a newspaper article published in Times of India dated 28th May 2020 (Patna Edition). It was also brought to the notice the Additional Advocate General S.D. Yadav who had been present in the Virtual Court.
A heart-rending video showing a toddler trying to wake up his dead mother by pulling the makeshift shroud at the Muzaffarpur Railway Station in Bihar.#MigrantLabourersDying #MigrantWorkers #Bihar #patnahighcourt#bnblegal https://t.co/sfvFMMvNyy
— B&B Associates LLP (@bnb_legal) May 29, 2020
The bench requested counsel Ashish Giri to assist the court as Amicus Curiae, and also asked Additional Advocate General-IX SD Yadav to ascertain from the nominated standing counsel for the state of Bihar in the Supreme Court, as to whether the apex court has taken cognizance of this particular incident or not.
In light of the same, the Bench has formulated the following issues that warrant immediate consideration:
- Whether the post-mortem of the dead body was conducted? If yes, what was the cause of death? Did the lady actually die of hunger?
- Was she traveling alone with her sibling? If not, who all were her companions?
- What action stands taken by law enforcement agencies?
- Were the last rights of the deceased performed as per the custom, tradition, and instructions issued by the government?
- Above all, who is now taking care of the children/sibling(s), who unfortunately lost their mother in these times of distress?
During the afternoon session of the matter, Additional Advocate General-IX SD Yadav informed the Bench that no information could be ascertained from the standing counsel in the apex court or the solicitor general of India as the matter, despite being listed on the Board, had not reached in the Supreme Court. He further stated that the news report was partially incorrect.
“The deceased was mentally unstable and had died a natural death during her journey from Surat (Gujarat), which fact was reported by her companions i.e., her sister and brother-in-law (sister’s husband, namely Md. Wazir). The deceased, who had been deserted by her husband, had only one child” stated SD Yadav.
He further said that after recording Wazir’s statement, the dead body was allowed to be taken home. “No post mortem was conducted and no FIR was registered. The district administration provided an ambulance up to the place of destination. The orphaned child is in safe custody and under the guardianship of the sister of the deceased,” he said, adding that his statements were based on the instructions received and the recorded statement of Md Wazir.
The Bench acknowledged the submissions of Yadav and stated, “In view of the aforesaid statement, at this stage, awaiting instructions from the Standing Counsel in the Supreme Court, we, prudently refrain from issuing any further directions more so when the child is in safe custody.” It further asserted for complete facts be made known to the Court, on the personal affidavit of the concerned Principal Secretaries and fixed 3rd June as the next date of hearing.
The court also issued notices to the union of India through the principal secretary, disaster management, New Delhi, the state of Bihar through its chief secretary, the departments of health & family welfare, disaster management, home, social justice through their principal secretaries, the Indian Railways and the IG (Police).