A café owner charged with failing to display a Covid-19 QR code has successfully avoided court by again arguing it’s too dangerous for him to be out during Auckland’s lockdown.
It’s the third time Dilip Rupa, who owns Rupa's Cafe in Freemans Bay, has been a no-show at the Auckland District Court.
On January 5, he became the first person to face a charge of intentionally failing to comply with the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act and failed to attend court.
The court heard today he also never went to another hearing last month when he was supposed to enter a plea.
Auckland District Court is still operating in a limited capacity during the region's Alert Level 3 restrictions for cases like Rupa's.
It heard today he emailed the court last night saying he has a medical condition which makes him a vulnerable person.
At an earlier hearing, the court was told he is asthmatic.
Contact was made with him after he didn’t go to court this morning, with the judge asking to see evidence of a medical condition.
By this afternoon, a medical certificate was sent by Rupa.
But Rupa also sent a separate email to the court this morning, as well as media and several MPs, just eight minutes before his hearing time.
In that email he said it was "only proper" for the judge to withdraw the case on the grounds of it being "a constitutional matter".
"The court has no right to act as a discharge for politicians when people question the legislation and process in relation to the constitutional rights," he wrote.
This email was not brought up at this afternoon’s hearing.
In that hearing, which considered Rupa’s medical certificate, Judge Pippa Sinclair said she gained the impression the café owner was “reluctant to answer the charge”.
She said it was difficult to reconcile the charge and the reason Rupa could not attend court.
“There appears to be a disconnect,” Judge Sinclair said.
She said the charge was a serious one while people were “in the throes of a worldwide pandemic” and that she was concerned about the case’s lack of progress.
Another court date has been set next week for Rupa.
“The appearance will be expected,” Judge Sinclair said.
WorkSafe has said Rupa was first warned in September and was sent letters along with fines totalling $600.
The agency has earlier said that businesses not showing QR codes are not only flouting the law but letting New Zealanders down.
Both police and WorkSafe made several visits in a bid to educate the cafe owner about the need to display a code.
Rupa, meanwhile, has claimed in online videos that he didn't have QR codes on show because he had a book for signing in and another way of recording visits.
Rupa is the first and only person to face court action accused of not showing a code in a business.
However, WorkSafe said today a second infringement notice has been given to a business in Kaikoura for not displaying one.
- September 2020 – Café owner Dilip Rupa is warned by WorkSafe
- 5 January – Rupa is charged with intentionally failing to comply with the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act. He fails to attend court and an arrest warrant is issued.
- 26 January – Rupa appears in court and is remanded without plea to enter one on another date.
- 17 February – Rupa again fails to appear to enter the plea. The matter is put off until today.
- 3 March – Rupa does not show in court, and later sends a medical certificate.