Wandering on a street late at night in a city like Mumbai when there is no night curfew is not an offense, a local court has said while acquitting a 29-year-old man booked by police for sitting on a road here under suspicious circumstances. The city police had registered the case against the man on June 13 and the Girgaon metropolitan magistrate’s court passed its order acquitting him on June 16. The magistrate said on the basis of the evidence submitted by the prosecution, it was difficult for the court to hold that the accused was trying to hide his identity to commit an offense.
The police had claimed that the man, Sumit Kashyap, hailing from Uttar Pradesh, tried to cover his face with a handkerchief while he was sitting on a road in south Mumbai. They had registered the case against him under Section 122 (b) of the Maharashtra Police Act.
The section has provisions for booking a person found between sunrise and sunset for “having his face covered or otherwise disguised with intent to commit an offense”.
Magistrate Nadeem Patel said, ”The accused was arrested in Mumbai at around 1.30 am. In a city like Mumbai, 1.30 am is not too late. Anyone can stand on the road and therefore, it cannot be termed as hiding the identity with intent to commit an offense.” ”Even if it is assumed that 1.30 am is too late, then also, wandering on the street is not an offense when there is no night curfew. Admittedly, there is no night curfew in Mumbai, therefore if the accused was standing on the road, it is not an offense,” the court added.
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The court refused to accept the police’s case that the man was trying to hide his identity by covering his face with a handkerchief.
”It is the COVID-19 period and people are used to wearing masks for safety purposes. Though a mask is not compulsory, but there is an advisory to wear the mask. If anyone is not having a mask, then they use a handkerchief as a mask, and if the accused is using the handkerchief as a mask to cover his mouth, it does not mean that he is hiding his identity,” the court said.
The court, while acquitting Kashyap, said the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the accused.