Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a landmark ruling on COVID-19 vaccination drive, the bench of L. Nageswara Rao* and BR Gavai, JJ has held that bodily integrity is protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and no individual can be forced to be vaccinated.

The Court, however, cautioned that,

“This judgment is not to be construed as impeding, in any manner, the lawful exercise of power by the executive to take suitable measures for prevention of infection and transmission of the virus in public interest, which may also take the form of restrictions on unvaccinated people in the future, if the situation so warrants. Such restrictions will be subject to constitutional scrutiny to examine if they meet the threefold requirement for intrusion into rights of individuals.”

The ruling came in the writ petition wherein the Petitioner highlighted the adverse consequences of emergency approval of vaccines in India, the need for transparency in publishing segregated clinical trial data of vaccines, the need for disclosure of clinical data, lack of transparency in regulatory approvals, minutes and constitution of the expert bodies, imperfect evaluation of Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFIs) and vaccine mandates in the absence of informed consent being unconstitutional. The Petitioner further stated in the Writ Petition that coercive vaccination would result in interfering with the principle of informed self-determination of individuals, protected by Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Is the Vaccination Drive Arbitrary?

On the basis of substantial material reflecting the near-unanimous views of experts on the benefits of vaccination in addressing severe disease from the infection, reduction in oxygen requirement, hospital and ICU admissions, mortality and stopping new variants from emerging, the Court was satisfied that the current vaccination policy of the Union of India is informed by relevant considerations and cannot be said to be unreasonable or manifestly arbitrary.

Personal autonomy and public health

  1. Bodily integrity is protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and no individual can be forced to be vaccinated.
  2. Personal autonomy of an individual involves the right of an individual to determine how they should live their own life, which consequently encompasses the right to refuse to undergo any medical treatment in the sphere of individual health.
  3. Persons who are keen to not be vaccinated on account of personal beliefs or preferences, can avoid vaccination, without anyone physically compelling them to be vaccinated. However, if there is a likelihood of such individuals spreading the infection to other people or contributing to mutation of the virus or burdening of the public health infrastructure, thereby affecting communitarian health at large, protection of which is undoubtedly a legitimate State aim of paramount significance in this collective battle against the pandemic, the Government can regulate such public health concerns by imposing certain limitations on individual rights that are reasonable and proportionate to the object sought to be fulfilled.

Restrictions on unvaccinated persons and impeding their right to access public resources

Neither the Union of India nor the State Governments produced any material to justify the discriminatory treatment of unvaccinated individuals in public places by imposition of vaccine mandates.

“No doubt that when COVID-19 vaccines came into the picture, they were expected to address, and were indeed found to be successful in dealing with, the risk of infection from the variants in circulation at the time. However, with the virus mutating, we have seen more potent variants surface which have broken through the vaccination barrier to some extent.”

Hence, the restrictions on unvaccinated individuals imposed through vaccine mandates cannot be considered to be proportionate, especially since both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals presently appear to be susceptible to transmission of the virus at similar levels.

It has, hence, been directed that till the infection rate and spread remains low, as it is currently, and any new development or research finding comes to light which provides the Government due justification to impose reasonable and proportionate restrictions on the rights of unvaccinated individuals in furtherance of the continuing efforts to combat this pandemic, all authorities in the country, including private organisations and educational institutions, should review the relevant orders and instructions imposing restrictions on unvaccinated individuals in terms of access to public places, services and resources.

Non-disclosure of segregated clinical trial data in public domain

The results of Phase III clinical trials of the vaccines in question have been published, in line with the requirement under the statutory regime in place, the GCP guidelines and the WHO Statement on Clinical Trials. The material provided by the Union of India, comprising of minutes of the meetings of the SEC, do not warrant the conclusion that restricted emergency use approvals had been granted to COVISHIELD and COVAXIN in haste, without thorough review of the relevant data. Relevant information relating to the meetings of the SEC and the NTAGI are available in public domain and therefore, challenge to the procedures adopted by the bodies while granting regulatory approval to the vaccines on the ground of lack of transparency cannot be entertained.

However, subject to the protection of privacy of individual subjects and to the extent permissible by the 2019 Rules, the relevant data which is required to be published under the statutory regime and the WHO Statement on Clinical Trials shall be made available to the public without undue delay, with respect to the ongoing post-marketing trials of COVAXIN and COVISHIELD as well as ongoing clinical trials or trials that may be conducted subsequently for approval of other COVID19 vaccines / vaccine candidates.

Monitoring of Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFIs)

The Court refused to accept the sweeping challenge to the monitoring system of AEFIs being faulty and not reflecting accurate figures of those with severe reactions or deaths from vaccines.

“The role of the Pharmacovigilance Programme of India and the CDSCO, as elaborated upon by the Union of India, collates and studies previously unknown reactions seen during monitoring of AEFIs at the time of vaccine administration and we trust the Union of India to ensure that this leg of the AEFI surveillance system is not compromised with, while meeting the requirements of the rapid review and assessment system followed at the national level for AEFIs.”

Information relating to adverse effects following immunisation

Information relating to adverse effects following immunisation is crucial for creating awareness around vaccines and their efficacy, apart from being instrumental in further scientific studies around the pandemic.

Recognising the imperative need for collection of requisite data of adverse events and wider participation in terms of reporting, the Union of India has been directed to facilitate reporting of suspected adverse events by individuals and private doctors on an accessible virtual platform. These reports shall be made publicly accessible, without compromising on protecting the confidentiality of the persons reporting, with all necessary steps to create awareness of the existence of such a platform and of the information required to navigate the platform to be undertaken by the Union of India at the earliest.

Paediatric vaccination

The decision taken by the Union of India to vaccinate children in India is in tune with global scientific consensus and expert bodies like the WHO, the UNICEF and the CDC and it is beyond the scope of review for this Court to second-guess expert opinion, on the basis of which the Government has drawn up its policy.

Keeping in line with the WHO Statement on Clinical Trials and the extant statutory regime, the Court directed the Union of India to ensure that key findings and results of the relevant phases of clinical trials of vaccines already approved by the regulatory authorities for administration to children, be made public at the earliest, if not already done.

[Jacob Puliyel v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 533, decided on 02.05.2022]


*Judgment by: Justice L. Nageswara Rao


Counsels

For Petitioner: Advocate Prashant Bhushan,

For UOI: Solicitor General Tushar Mehta

For Respondent No. 4: Senior Advocate S. Guru Krishnakumar

For Tamil Nadu: Additional Advocate General Amit Anand Tiwari

For Maharashtra: Advocate Rahul Chitnis

For Madhya Pradesh: Advocate Mrinal Gopal Elker,

For Respondent no. 5: Advocate Shyel Trehan

Supreme Court of The United States
Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of The United States: The Full Bench of the SCOTUS on 13th January, 2022 gave its decision on the Vaccine Mandates issued for large employers and healthcare workers. While the Court with a ratio of 6:3, put a stay on the Biden Administration’s vaccine-or-test rule for large private employers; however, at the same time the Bench with a ratio of 5:4, upheld a regulation issued by the Secretary of Health and Human Services that mandated vaccines for employees at hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare providers.

National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Dept. of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration  

Background: In the backdrop of unprecedented challenges posed by Covid19 pandemic and in view of the rising cases, on September 9, 2021, President Biden announced a new plan to require more Americans to be vaccinated. The Secretary of Labor, acting through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (hereinafter OSHA), thus enacted a vaccine mandate for USA’s work force. The mandate was applicable to roughly 84 million workers, covering approximately all employers with at least 100 employees. It required that covered workers receive a COVID–19 vaccine, and it pre-empts contrary state laws. The only exception is for workers who obtain a medical test each week at their own expense and on their own time, and also wear a mask each workday.

The Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970 in order to – ensure occupational safety—“safe and healthful working conditions.” by enforcing occupational safety and health stand­ards promulgated by the Secretary. Such stand­ards must be “reasonably necessary or appropriate to pro­vide safe or healthful employment.” They must also be developed using a rigorous pro­cess that includes notice, comment, and an opportunity for a public hearing.

The Challenge: OSHA’s ‘never done before’ Vaccine Mandate was challenged by many States, businesses, and nonprofit organizations in Courts of Appeals across USA. The Fifth Circuit initially entered a stay, but when the cases were consolidated before the Sixth Circuit, that court lifted the stay and allowed OSHA’s rule to take effect. The challengers contended that OSHA’s mandate exceeds its statutory authority and is therefore unlawful.

Key Observations by the Majority: The Majority comprising of John Roberts, CJ., Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch (concurring) and Amy Coney Barret, JJ., focused upon the core issue of institutional competence- whether the 1970 Act plainly authorizes the OSHA’s mandate. It was observed that, “Administrative agencies are creatures of statute. They accordingly possess only the authority that Congress has provided”. Mandating roughly 82 million Americans “to either obtain a COVID–19 vaccine or undergo weekly medical testing at their own expense” is a major encroachment in the life and health of a vast number of employees.

The majority observed that the Act empowers the Secretary to set workplace safety standards, not broad public health measures; furthermore no provision of the Act addresses public health more generally, which falls outside of OSHA’s sphere of expertise. “Although COVID–19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an oc­cupational hazard in most. COVID–19 can and does spread at home, schools, sporting events, and gatherings. That kind of universal risk is no different from the day-to-day dangers that all face from crime, air pollution, or any number of communicable dis­eases”; therefore permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life, would significantly ex­pand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congres­sional authorization.

The majority further noted that OSHA indeed has the authority to regulate occu­pation-specific risks related to COVID–19, however, their indiscrimi­nate approach fails to take account of a crucial distinction between occupational risk and risk more generally and ac­cordingly the vaccine mandate takes on the character of a general public health measure, rather than an occupational safety or health standard.

Lastly, the majority noted that in its half century of existence, OSHA has never adopted a broad public health regulation of this kind—addressing a threat that is untethered, in any causal sense, from the workplace. “This lack of historical precedent, coupled with the breadth of authority that the Secretary now claims, is a “telling indication” that the man­date extends beyond the agency’s legitimate reach”.

With the aforementioned observations, the Court put a stay on OSHA’s Covid–19 Vaccination and Testing; Emergency Temporary Standard, 86 Fed. Reg. 61402.

The Dissent:  Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, JJ., dissented with the decision to stay the vaccine mandate for the work force. Expressing their disappointment with the reasoning applied by the majority, the Judges observed that OSHA – an agency charged by Congress with safeguarding employees from workplace dangers has decided that action is needed by thoroughly evaluating the risks that the disease poses to workers across all sectors of the economy. It has considered the extent to which various pol­icies will mitigate those risks and the costs those policies will entail. After detailed considerations it landed on an approach that encourages vaccination, but allows employers to use masking and test­ing instead. In doing all this, it has acted within the four corners of its statutory authorization. OSHA, has responded in the way necessary to alleviate the dan­ger” that workplace exposure to the “new hazard” the COVID–19 poses to employees across the USA,for OSHA is responsible to the President, and the President is responsible to—and can be held to account by—the American public”.

The dissenting Judges also stated that as disease and death are raging due to the pandemic, this Court’s decision to tell off the concerned agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible, undercuts the capacity of the responsible federal officials, acting well within the scope of their au­thority, to protect American workers from grave danger. Who decides how much protection, and of what kind, American workers need from COVID–19? An agency with expertise in workplace health and safety, act­ing as Congress and the President authorized? Or a court, lacking any knowledge of how to safeguard workplaces, and insulated from responsibility for any damage it causes?

Joseph R. Biden Jr. v. Missouri

Background: The instant matter dealt with the same issue, but this time the concerned sector was healthcare.  In November 2021, the Secretary of Health and Human Services announced that, in order to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding, participating facilities must ensure that their staff (unless exempt for medical or religious reasons) are vaccinated against Covid–19. A facility’s failure to comply would lead to monetary penalties, denial of payment for new admis­sions, and ultimately termination of participation in the programs.

Submissions: The Secretary submitted before the Court that the interim rule was issued after finding that vaccina­tion of healthcare workers against COVID–19 was neces­sary for the health and safety of individuals to whom care and services are furnished. That deter­mination was based on data showing that COVID–19 can spread rapidly among healthcare workers and from them to patients, and that such spread is more likely when healthcare workers are unvaccinated and any further delay would endanger patient health and safety, given the spread of the Delta variant and the upcoming winter season.

The States of Louisiana and Missouri challenged the mandate terming it as arbitrary and impulsive and that the Secretary examine the relevant data before imposing the vac­cine mandate instead of a testing mandate. They also contended that in issuing the mandate, the Secretary departed from the agency’s prior approach of merely encouraging vaccination.

Key Observations: For this matter, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh along with Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, JJ., noted the overwhelming support that the vaccine mandate got from the healthcare workers and public health officials.

Deliberating upon the question that whether the Secretary had exceeded his statutory authority in issuing the vaccine mandate in order ensure eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid dollars, the majority stated that Congress has authorized the Secretary to impose conditions on the receipt of Medicaid and Medicare funds that “the Secretary finds necessary in the interest of the health and safety of individuals who are furnished services”. Given the highly dangerous and contagious nature of Covid19, especially for the patients, the Secretary determined that a COVID–19 vaccine man­date will substantially reduce the likelihood that healthcare workers will contract the virus and transmit it to their patients and concluded that a vaccine mandate was “necessary to pro­mote and protect patient health and safety” in the face of the ongoing pandemic.  Ensuring that providers take steps to avoid transmitting a dangerous virus to their patients is con­sistent with the fundamental principle of the medical pro­fession.

The Majority concluded their observations by holding that the Secretary of Health and Human Services did nothing out of his statutory purview in issuing the vaccine mandate fir the healthcare workers. “The challenges posed by a global pandemic do not allow a federal agency to exercise power that Congress has not con­ferred upon it. At the same time, such unprecedented cir­cumstances provide no grounds for limiting the exercise of authorities the agency has long been recognized to have”.

The Dissent: Meanwhile Amy Coney Barret, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, JJ., dissented on the matter. Commenting upon how the Executive ‘already touches nearly every aspect of Americans’ lives’, the Judges noted that Majority’s decision will “ripple through administrative agen­cies’ future decision making” because if Congress had wanted to grant the concerned authority to impose a nationwide vaccine mandate, and consequently alter the state-federal balance, it would have said so clearly.

In conclud­ing that the Secretary had good cause to avoid notice-and-comment rulemaking while issuing the vaccine mandate, “the Court shifts the presumption against com­pliance with procedural strictures from the unelected agency to the people they regulate. Neither CMS nor the Court articulates a limiting principle for why, after an un­explained and unjustified delay, an agency can regulate first and listen later, and then put more than 10 million healthcare workers to the choice of their jobs or an irre­versible medical treatment”.

[NFIB v. OSHA, Nos. 21A244 and 21A247 and Biden v. Missouri, Nos. 21A240 and 21A241, decided on 13.1.2022]


Sucheta Sarkar, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of Abhay S Oka, CJ and Aravind Kumar, J. gave a slew of directions regarding vaccine allocation.

 The Court took stock of the various aspect related to COVID vaccination in the State.

 Mucormycosis- Black Fungus

A submission was made before the Court regarding an acute shortage of Liposomal Amphotericin B Injection which is required for treating Black Fungus or Mucormycosis to which the State assured that there will be no shortage of the drug.

The Court directed “…place on record statistics of the cases of Mucormycosis in Bengaluru as well as in the other parts of the State and the details about the availability of the said drug-Liposomal Amphotericin B Injection.”

Vaccination

The issue of vaccination is about the special efforts made by the State Government, its agencies and instrumentalities to persuade the citizens residing in thickly populated localities and slums as well as the vulnerable sections of the society to take the benefit of the vaccination drive.

The Court observed that the State Government, as well as BBMP, will consider taking the assistance of NGOs for ensuring that those who are not aware of the availability of the vaccine or those who are reluctant to take the vaccine, are persuaded to take the vaccine.

The Court also observed that the immediate family members of the Frontline Workers, Healthcare Workers and those who fall in Priority groups must undergo vaccination, otherwise, the object of giving priority may be frustrated.

The Court directed the State Government as well as BBMP to place on record the details of the efforts made in this behalf.”

 A document pertaining to Standard Operating Procedure of COVID- 19 Vaccination of Persons without the Prescribed Identity Cards through CoWIN was placed on record by Amicus Curiae.

  • Clause (2) provides registration on CoWIN portal can be made on the basis of any of the seven documents mentioned therein
  • Clause (5) deals with registration of the persons such as nomads, prison inmates, inmates in mental health institutions, roadside beggars, etc who do not have any of the said seven documents.

Issue of Administration Of Vaccine To Persons With Various Categories Of Disabilities

 The Court observed that persons with a disability must get priority when it comes to vaccination in light of Section 25 (1) (c) of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016

The Court directed “the State Government shall place on record a data of the number of persons with disabilities vaccinated in the following districts: (i) Bengaluru, (ii) Kalbugari, (iii) Bidar, (iv) Mangalore and (v) Chamarajanagar.”

COVAXIN AND COVISHIELD

 The State submitted that 2, 95,100 doses of COVAXIN from the free quota provided by the Central Government are available with the State. In addition, the State Government has procured 81,100 doses out of the free quota are available and 3, 13,219 doses of COVISHIELD have been procured directly by the State Government.

Food Security

The Court analyzed the memo filed by the State and observed that mid-day meal scheme will continue as a one-time special measure even during the summer vacation of the schools.

The Court also took stock of another important aspect of food security is of the supply of ration or ration kits to the vulnerable sections of the society who have been deprived of income due to partial lockdown.

The Court directed “the State Government shall take an immediate decision on the issue of the supply of ration or ration kits to the persons belonging to the vulnerable sections of the society who have not even applied for ration cards”[Mohammed Arif Jameel v. Union of India, W.P. No. 6435 of 2020, decided on 03-06-2021]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: The Division Bench of Mohammad Rafiq, CJ. and Atul Sreedharan, J., decided on a petition which was filed in the form of public interest litigation seeking direction to register FIR against Respondent 7 and Respondent 8, who are Police Constables posted at Police Station – Pardeshipura, Indore as they had misused their powers subjecting innocent rickshaw-puller to merciless beating. They prayed for a direction to the respondents to constitute an independent Committee or Grievance Cell, who may examine the complaints against excesses misconduct of the Policemen.

Counsel for the petitioner, Ms Shanno Shagufta Khan submitted that news article published in the newspaper Indian Express, Bhopal Edition on 8-4-2021 two constables of Police Station – Pardeshipura, Indore were placed under suspension after their video beating an auto rickshaw driver became viral on social media; allegedly for not wearing the mask in a proper manner. The counsel submitted numerous similar incidents which took place in the State. The counsel added that it was not only these cases but t a lawyer and two journalists were also subjected to assault by the police in Madhya Pradesh in last three months.

Mr Swapnil Ganguly, Deputy Advocate General for the respondent/State submitted that this Court in its order dated 17-5-2021 in Shekhar Choudhary v. State of Madhya Pradesh, W.P. No. 8655 of 2021 had already issued necessary order to the police directing that no citizen, who is found not wearing mask or not following social distancing norms or not following lockdown conditions, should be subjected to corporal punishment or beating and that in the current case charge sheet has been issued against Respondent 7 & 8 for taking appropriate disciplinary action.

The Court reiterated its earlier decision in Shekhar Choudhary v. State of Madhya Pradesh that policemen should rather counsel people by sensitizing them about the need of following Covid protocols such as wearing mask, following norms of social distancing or abiding lockdown/Corona curfew restrictions and directed the Superintendent of Police, Indore to take appropriate action against the erring police officials on complaints of excesses and beating by police.

[Osheen Sharma v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2021 SCC OnLine MP 978, decided on 24-05-2021]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ., and G. S. Kulkarni, J., asked the Municipal Corporations if they are prepared to introduce door to door vaccination for such citizens notwithstanding disinclination of Central government to formulate policy in that regard.

The ASG, Mr. Singh had submitted before the Court the minutes of meetings of Expert Committee constituted by Central government to discuss possibility of door to door vaccination for elderly and disabled citizens. The ASG had further submitted that the Central government is considering of adopting a Standard Operating Procedure for vaccination of elderly. On the other hand, the petitioner contended that no valid reason had been assigned by the Expert Committee for not introducing door to door vaccination policy for the elderly and disabled citizens who cannot be taken to the vaccination centres.

Observing the minutes of the meetings, the Bench asked the Municipal Commissioner whether they are prepared, in spite of disinclination of to formulate door to door vaccination policy for elderly and disabled citizens to introduce door to door vaccination for such citizens and undertake measures for their vaccination upon making them aware of the aftereffects/consequences, under proper medical care and upon obtaining consent of either such citizens or their near relatives, for being vaccinated in pursuance of Court’s order.

[Dhruti Kapadia v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 733, decided on 19-05-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together

Appearance before the Court:

Counsel for the Petitioner: Dhruti Kapadia (In person)

Counsels for UOI: ASG Anil C. Singh with Advait Sethna i/by Anusha P. Amin

Counsels for the State: G.P. Purnima Kantharia with Addl. G.P. Geeta Shastri

Counsel for MCGM: K. H. Mastakar

Counsel for Pune Municipal Corporation: Ahijit Kulkarni

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Prathiba M. Singh, J. told Delhi government to exempt the employees dealing with medical and health insurance services from curfew restrictions. The Bench stated,

Medical insurance and health insurance services are essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic situation. Thus, the employees who are dealing with medical and health insurance services; ought to be permitted to move freely between hospitals and their own offices, in order to expedite the processing of medical insurance claims.

The Petitioner, in the present petition, is a leading insurance company which is engaged in the business of health insurance plans and mediclaim policies. The case of the Petitioner was that it has branches all over Delhi, with approximately 256 employees, however only around 30 to 35 officials are required to attend offices, in order to process the claim documents of various patients who are primarily suffering from COVID-19 and are admitted in various hospitals. The present petition had been necessitated due to the rejection of e-pass for movement during lockdown by the Delhi Government, to the employees of the Petitioner, who are required to move from place to place for clearance of the insurance claims etc. Reliance was placed on the decision of this Court in Vinay Jaidka v. Chief Secretary, WP(C) 5026/2021 wherein it had been directed that, “all insurance companies ought to process the insurance claims within a period of 30 to 60 minutes, so that the discharge of patients is not delayed and hospitals beds are not blocked due to the said delay in processing the claims.

The petitioner contended that the Govt. of NCT of Delhi through the Delhi Disaster Management Authority in its order dated 19-04-2021 had classified insurance companies under category 4 (l) and persons in the said categories require an e-pass in order to be able to move freely during the lockdown. The employees of the company, pursuant to the said requirement, applied to the GNCTD for an e-pass. However, all their applications had been ‘rejected’ without any reasons. As the website displayed:

ePass for NGLS7BW NOT Generated/Approved yet Current Status: Rejected

The Bench opined that medical insurance and health insurance services are essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic situation. The employees of insurance companies could not be restrained in this manner from free movement, as their movement is essential during the situation of a pandemic where many are dependent on the clearance of health insurance claims for discharge from the hospitals. Thus, these employees ought to be permitted to move freely between hospitals and their own offices, in order to expedite the processing of medical insurance claims. The Bench further observed that the abovementioned message of rejection was extremely ambiguous as it does not reflect the reason for rejection. The Bench expressed,

During the pandemic, if issuance of e-pass can be made a complex process for persons dealing with health insurance policies and claims thereunder, it would result in enormous delays.

Accordingly, the following directions were issued:

(i) The employees of the Petitioner, who are dealing with health insurance claims, as also mediclaims etc., shall be considered as rendering essential services, and thus, be exempt from curfew restrictions.

(ii) The Petitioner company shall provide a proper record of the required employees, and shall give a complete list of the employees along with their Aadhar Card/ID numbers, and one common certificate, certifying that all the said employees would be dealing with processing and clearance of claims relating to health insurance or mediclaim policies.

(iii) By return email, the official concerned of the GNCTD shall acknowledge the receipt of the said documents. In accordance with this order, the said employees, after the documents having been submitted to the official concerned, shall be exempted from the curfew restrictions,

In the light of above, the petition was disposed of.

 [Max Bupa Health Insurance Co. Ltd. v. NCT of Delhi, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 1996, decided on 06-05-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

For the Petitioner: Adv. Gurmeet Bindra

For the Respondents: SC Santosh Kumar Tripathi with Adv. Aditya P Khanna

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench comprising of Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli, JJ., addressed the issue regarding rising death toll due to Covid-19, scarcity of medical oxygen and unavailability of supply tankers in NCT of Delhi (NCTD). The Bench stated,

“We have been seeing for ourselves, day after day, how large and small hospitals, nursing homes and even individuals are running to us with SOS calls for supply of medical oxygen.”

Issues Raised by NCTD

  1. Amicus Curiae, Rajshekhar Rao had submitted that though the Central Government had revised the allocation of oxygen to GNCTD to 590MT, the allocation orders did not take into account the capacity of the supplier. And the suppliers had expressed their inability to supply allocated oxygen stock.
  2. Reportedly, certain States which were allocated higher amount of oxygen, are reportedly witnessing a dip in their oxygen demand and not lifting their total allocated supply, therefore, the Central Government should reconsider the issue of allocation of oxygen to States, allocation of oxygen by each supplier and rationalize allocation of oxygen tankers by factoring into account the real-time requirement of oxygen in various states on a regular basis shall be done.
  3. It was further requested that the Central Government be directed to take over all the tankers in the country as a national resource and thereafter, rationally deploy the them to meet the needs of all the States and Union Territories.
  4. The GNCTD had been earmarked from suppliers who are situated at a distance of 1200 to 1500 kms from Delhi, the Central Government be directed to explore other routes as suggested by the GNCTD to enable the GNCTD to receive the oxygen from the sources in a more organized and timely manner.

Emergency Buffer Stock of Oxygen

To meet the present demands of Oxygen in the NCT of Delhi, the Bench directed the Central Government to prepare a buffer stock of Oxygen of at least, 100 MT in the NCT of Delhi in collaboration with the GNCTD, to be used for emergency. The Bench observed that the Supreme Court has already issued directions to the Central Government, and the GNCTD to act in this regard by order dated 30.04.2021:

We have also seen the situation that has developed in the last 24 hours in Delhi where patients, including among them medical professionals, died because of the disruption of supplies and the time lag in the arrival of tankers. This deficit shall be rectified immediately by the Central Government by creating buffer stocks and collaborating with the States through the virtual control room on a 24 by 7 basis.

Thus, the Bench directed the Central Government to, in collaboration with the GNCTD set up a buffer stock of 100 MT of liquid medical oxygen (LMO) in the NCT of Delhi with the further directions to do the same within next 3 days. .  The Center government was also directed to share with the GNCTD the registration numbers of the Tankers allocated for it with their GPS trackers.

Crowd Management

Observing that there are long queues at the locations of the re-fillers and Liquid Oxygen being explosive there are possibility of life causing accidents, at the request of GNCTD the Bench seek response from the Center government within 2 days for deploying a dedicated force for the purpose of crowd management at the re-filling depots preferably, Central Para Military Forces, since they are adept in crowd management respond within two days.

Dissemination of Information

Observing that the general public is still not fully aware of the protocols, the Bench directed the ICMR and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, to look into expanding their reach and to disseminate information through WhatsApp and other print and audio-visual media regarding the aspects of COVID-19 protocol evolved by it, proper use of oxygen concentrators as well as cylinders, right time to seek medical attention and information about the concerning symptoms.

Supply of LMO

Taking note of the fact that GNCTD is still not receiving 700MT of liquid medical oxygen per day; even though the Supreme Court while passing its detailed order dated 30-04-2021, had directed compliance by the Union of India. The Bench rejected the submission of Mr. Sharma, counsel for Union Government that a compliance affidavit is being filed in the Supreme Court tomorrow. The Bench stated,

“We fail to understand what a compliance affidavit would do when, as a matter of fact, 700MT of liquid medical oxygen is not being delivered to Delhi on a daily basis. In fact, even the earlier allocated quantity of 490MT, which has been revised to 590 MT per day, has not been delivered for a single day.”

The Bench remarked that unfortunately, the heart-wrenching situation on the ground in Delhi  is something not present to the mind of the Central Government.  Rejecting the submission of Counsels for Union Government, Mr. Sharma and Ms. Bhati that the GNCTD is not entitled to receive 700MT of liquid medical oxygen in the light of the existing medical infrastructure, the Bench expressed,

It pains us that the aspect of supply of liquid medical oxygen for treatment of covid patients in Delhi should be viewed in the way it has been done by the Central Government.”

Lastly, a show cause notice was issued to the Central Government as to why contempt action should not be initiated for not only non-compliance of the order of this Court dated 01-05-2021, but also of the order passed by the Supreme Court dated 30-04-2021. To answer the said notice, the Union ministers Mr. Piyush Goyal and Ms. Sumita Dawra were directed to appear before the Court in the next hearing.

[Rakesh Malhotra v. NCT of Delhi and Balaji Medical And Research Center, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 1869, order dated 04-05-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

For the Petitioners: Sr. Adv. Sacchin Puri, with Adv. Praveen K. Sharma and
Adv. Dhananjay Grover

For the Union of India: SGI Tushar Mehta, ASG Chetan Sharma, CGSC Monika Arora, CGSC  Amit Mahajan, CGSC Anil Soni, CGSC Anurag
Ahluwalia, Adv. Shriram Tiwary, Adv. Amit Gupta, Adv. Akshay
Gadeock, Adv. Sahaj Garg and Adv. Vinay Yadav

For NCT of Delhi: Sr. Adv. Rahul Mehra, ASC Satyakam, Sr. Adv. Santosh
Tripathi, ASC Gautam Narayan, ASC Anuj Aggarwal, ASC Anupam Srivastava, Adv. Aditya P. Khanna, Adv. Dacchita Sahni, Adv. Ritika Vohra and Adv. Chaitanya Gosain

Supreme Court Roundups


TOP STORIES


Constitution Bench

No more “mechanical” conversion of complaints under Section 138 NI Act from summary to summons trial; Magistrates “must” record reasons: Supreme Court

“Such conversion of complaints under Section 138 from summary trial to summons trial has been contributing to the delay in disposal of the cases.”

Read more…


COVID-19 Surge

As nation gasps for breath, Supreme Court calls for “even handed” distribution of COVID essentials like oxygen, Remdesivir; asks Centre to submit a “national plan”

“The High Courts have passed certain orders which may have the effect of accelerating and prioritising the services to a certain set of people and slowing down the availability of these resources to certain other groups whether the groups are local, regional or otherwise.”

Read more…

 

Distribution of COVID essentials like oxygen, Remdesivir| “Not substituting the jurisdiction of the High Courts”; Supreme Court explains why it intervened

“The role of this Court in the present situation is complementary to the role and functions being performed by the High Courts. Neither is intended to substitute the other.”

Read more…

 

Allahabad HC’s “lockdown” judgment stayed for now but UP Govt to “immediately” report to HC on steps taken and future plan: Supreme Court

“Until further orders, there shall be an ad interim stay of the impugned order passed by the High Court.”

Read more…


Vacancies in High Courts and Pendency of Cases

Ad-hoc judges to be appointed to deal with unprecedented pendency of cases in High Courts. Supreme Court issues guidelines and “trigger points” for activation of dormant Article 224A

“Article 224 A should not be made a dead letter, more so when the need is so pressing.”

Read more…

 

With 220 vacancies, “the High Courts are in a crisis situation”; Here’s what the Supreme Court advised to facilitate timely appointments

“The High Courts are in a crisis situation. There are almost 40% vacancies in the High Courts, with many of the larger High Courts working under 50% of their sanctioned strength.”

Read more…

 

Deficiencies in Criminal Trials and pendency of cases| Supreme Court directs all High Courts to adopt the Draft Rules of Criminal Practice, 2021

After noticing common deficiencies which occur in the course of criminal trials and certain practices adopted by trial courts in criminal proceedings as well as in the disposal of criminal cases and causes, the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhatt, JJ has directed all High Courts to take expeditious steps to incorporate the Draft Rules of Criminal Practice, 2021 as part of the rules governing criminal trials, and ensure that the existing rules, notifications, orders and practice directions are suitably modified, and promulgated (wherever necessary through the Official Gazette) within 6 months.

Read more…


A blind Scheduled Caste woman raped! Supreme Court explains intersectional oppression and how it needs to be addressed

“The experience of rape induces trauma and horror for any woman regardless of her social position in the society. But the experiences of assault are different in the case of a woman who belongs to a Scheduled Caste community and has a disability because the assault is a result of the interlocking of different relationships of power at play.”

Read more…

 

Balance sheet entries can amount to an acknowledgement of liability under Section 18 of the Limitation Act, 1963: Supreme Court

“… it would depend on the facts of each case as to whether an entry made in a balance sheet qua any particular creditor is unequivocal or has been entered into with caveats, which then has to be examined on a case by case basis to establish whether an acknowledgement of liability has, in fact, been made, thereby extending limitation under Section 18 of the Limitation Act.”

Read more…

 

Any creditor including Central/State Government or any local authority bound by Resolution Plan approved by adjudicating authority under Section 31(1) IBC: Supreme Court

“On the date of approval of resolution plan by the Adjudicating Authority, all such claims, which are not a part of resolution plan, shall stand extinguished.”

Read more…

 

No blood or breath analyser test proving drunk driving? Insurer may still establish a case for exclusion from liability: Supreme Court

“Merely because there is no test performed, the Insurer would not be deprived of its right to establish a case which is well within its rights under the contract.”

Read more…

 

“Complex” questions involving novation of contract can’t be decided by Court under Section 11 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act: Supreme Court

“Detailed arguments on whether an agreement which contains an arbitration clause has or has not been novated cannot possibly be decided in exercise of a limited prima facie review as to whether an arbitration agreement exists between the parties.”

Read more…

 

Can’t treat unequals equally; No automatic vacation of stay under Section 254(2A) Proviso 3 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 if the assessee is not responsible for the delay: Supreme Court

“Unequals have been treated equally so far as assessees who are responsible for delaying appellate proceedings and those who are not so responsible, resulting in a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.”

Read more…


MORE STORIES


Rohingya Refugees not to be deported unless the procedure prescribed for such deportation is followed: Supreme Court

“Right not to be deported, is ancillary or concomitant to the right to reside or settle in any part of the territory of India.”

Read more…

 

The Rapid MetroRail controversy; High Court’s “consensual order” and Supreme Court’s order directing HSVP to deposit 80% of debt due in Escrow Account

Non-interference in the matter would have inevitably led to the disruption of rapid metro lines for Gurgaon leading to disastrous consequences for the general public.

Read more…

 

Husband & Sister-in-law walk free after deceased’s dying declaration fails to “inspire confidence” in a 30 year old case; Supreme Court explains the yardstick for admissibility of a dying declaration

The bench of Navin Sinha and Krishan Murari, JJ has held that there cannot be any rigid standard or yardstick for acceptance or rejection of a dying declaration and whether or not it will be admissible in evidence will depend upon the fact of each case.

Read more…

 

“We are afraid that we cannot do anything”; Read why Supreme Court refused to interfere with the dismantling of INS Viraat, the oldest serving warship in the World

“While appreciating the sentiments of the petitioners, we are afraid that we cannot do anything at this stage”

Read more…

 

Enquiry by retired Supreme Court judge into Justice V. Eswaraiah Phone Call controversy uncalled for: Supreme Court

“High Court ought not to have embarked on any other enquiry in the matter except to the maintainability of the PIL.”

Read more…

 

“Consent of parties cannot obviate the duty of the High Court to indicate its reasons”; Supreme Court explains the law on Bail

“Whether an order granting a bail is a precedent on grounds of parity is a matter for future adjudication if and when an application for bail is moved on the grounds of parity on behalf of another accused…it is for that court before whom parity is claimed to determine whether a case for the grant of bail on reasons of parity is made out.”

Read more…

 

Judicial review or judicial restraint? Supreme Court explains where the virtue itself turns into vice

The Division Bench comprising of Rohinton Fali Nariman* and B.R. Gavai, JJ., addressed the issue of overstepping of review jurisdiction by the High Courts in policy matters. The Bench expressed,

“Judicial review in these matters is equivalent to judicial restraint in these matters…the writ court does not have the expertise to correct such decisions by substituting its own decision for the decision of the authority.”

Read more…

 

Gangster previously prosecuted in 15 cases gets bail in a murder case! Supreme Court sets aside Allahabad High Court order

“There is no doubt that liberty is important, even that of a person charged with crime but it is important for the courts to recognise the potential threat to the life and liberty of victims/witnesses, if such accused is released on bail.”

Read more…

 

Murderer kills one or two persons but persons dealing with narcotic drugs inflict death blow to a number of innocent youngsters: Supreme Court

“While striking balance between the mitigating and aggravating circumstances, public interest, impact on the society as a whole will always be tilt in favour of the suitable higher punishment.”

Read more…

 

Can there be presumption of Hindu joint family property if a business activity carried out by Karta in a tenanted premise? Supreme Court answers

“Even if a male member had taken premises on rent, he is tenant in his individual capacity and not as Karta of Hindu Undivided Family in the absence of any evidence that Karta was doing the business for and on behalf of Joint Hindu Family.”

 Read more…

 

“Mini Trial not permissible at the stage of framing of charge”; Supreme Court explains the yardsticks of revisional jurisdiction of High Courts

The Division Bench comprising of Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah*, JJ., recently held in an interesting case that evaluation of evidence on merits is not permissible at the stage of considering the application for discharge and the same is beyond the scope of revisional jurisdiction of the High Courts. The Bench explained,

“At the stage of framing of the charge and/or considering the discharge application, the mini trial is not permissible.”

Read more…

 

Protection of heaviest flying bird, the Great Indian Bustard: SC emphasizes on need to adopt ecocentric approach; issues directions

“…keeping in view, the sustainable development concept and on striking a balance the protection of the rare species of birds is essential to be made, the effort being to save every bird while at the same time allowing transmission of power in an appropriate manner.”

Read more…


EXPLAINERS


Rule of alternate remedy and maintainability of writ petitions under Article 226 of the Constitution

“An alternate remedy by itself does not divest the High Court of its powers under Article 226 of the Constitution in an appropriate case though ordinarily, a writ petition should not be entertained when an efficacious alternate remedy is provided by law;.”

Read more…

 

What happens to a petition filed under wrong nomenclature?

The nomenclature under which the petition is filed is not quite relevant and it does not debar the Court from exercising its jurisdiction which otherwise it possesses.

Read more…

 

Whether punishment justified where the authority imposing punishment and approving it, is the same person?

“In terms of the specific statutory regime referable to Section 122-A of the 1965 Act, Rule 15, would be the governing principle rather than Regulation 87 framed in exercise of regulation making power referable to the general dispensation under Sections 121 and 122 of the 1965 Act. Rule 15 does not contemplate that the Chairman of the Committee is required to have any prior concurrence of any authority.”

Read more…

 

Whether pre-FIR enquiry is permissible against public servant in corruption matters? What is the scope and ambit of such an enquiry? Supreme Court explains

“…(If) an enquiry is held and/or conducted after following the procedure as per Maharashtra State Anti-corruption & Prohibition Intelligence Bureau Manual, it cannot be said that the same is illegal and/or the police officer, Anti-corruption Bureau has no jurisdiction and/or authority and/or power at all to conduct such an enquiry at pre-registration of FIR stage.”

Read more…


IN OTHER NEWS


Justice NV Ramana sworn in as the 48th Chief Justice of India

Chief Justice SA Bobde retires: A look at his legacy and justice in the time of COVID-19

COVID-19 surge| Supreme Court’s Summer Vacation preponed

COVID-19 surge| Supreme Court to hear only urgent matters from April 22, 2021. Here’s the list of matters that can be treated as “urgent”

With sudden rise in COVID-19 cases, Supreme Court issues additional guidelines for people entering the Court premises


IN MEMORIAM


Sitting Supreme Court judge Justice MM Shantanagoudar passes away

Also read: The Judicial Legacy of Justice MM Shantanagoudar

Former Supreme Court judge Justice MK Mukherjee passes away at 87. Here are his 5 notable judgments

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has stayed the Allahabad High Court judgment issuing directions for “lockdown” in the State of Uttar Pradesh but has directed that the State Government to “immediately” report to the High Court about the steps it has taken and proposes to take in the immediate future within a period of one week in view of the current pandemic.

The Court has appointed Senior Advocate P.S. Narasimha as Amicus Curiae and has listed the matter after 2 weeks.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the State had argued before the Court that the State Government has issued several directions to contain the spread of Corona Virus and are taking adequate precautions at their own and that the directions issued by the High Court vide the impugned order are as rigorous as a lockdown though the High Court has observed that “they are nowhere close to a complete lockdown”.

Yesterday, the Allahabad High Court had said that it was their constitutional duty to save innocent people from the pandemic and in order to break the chain of COVID-19 pandemic, people are to be restrained from going outside their homes for a week.

It said that,

“Those in the helm of affairs of governance are to be blamed for the present chaotic health problems and more so when there is a democracy which means a government of the people, by the people and for the people. It is a shame that while the Government knew of the magnitude of the second wave it never planned things in advance.”

While the High Court said that the directions issued by it were “nowhere close to a complete lockdown”, it remarked,

In this order if we have not imposed a lockdown it does not mean that we do not believe in it. We are still of the view that if we want to break the chain a lockdown for a duration of at least two weeks is a must.”

[State of Uttar Pradesh v. High Court of Judicature at Allahabad, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 336, order dated 20.04.2021]


For Petitioner(s): SG Tushar Mehta, AAG Garima Prashad, Adv. Rajat Nair and AOR Abhinav Agrawal

For Respondent(s): AOR Talha Abdul Rahman

ALSO READ

“Govt. is to blame for chaos; Harsh steps necessary before pandemic spirals to engulf entire population”: All HC orders closing of all establishments (exceptions listed) till 26th April in select districts, asks Govt. to consider complete lockdown for entire State

COVID 19Op EdsOP. ED.

Introduction

This article is penned especially for advocates, judges, litigants and more particularly the ministerial staff in the courts who are even without setting of Covid-19, under a lot of mental stress and require spontaneous rejuvenation. The word “health” partakes within itself physical, mental and social well-being and, therefore, this article is for seeing that we remain fit once the courts start functioning and we are out of our mental psychosis.

The setting of 2020 came with all goodnesses but by the middle of the third month i.e. spring, we felt that good relationship, sense of belonging, opportunity to physically be active all were shattered bringing in a psychological weakness in a person. Like, come September we Indians welcome seasons. The first six months of the English calendar brings various festivities.

We also started seeing what can be said as few socio-legal disturbances, namely, the families have started having mental disorders due to the pandemic as well as the lockdown and it is in this background that I am penning this article though many have given their thoughts and have uploaded many videos and sermons but we have to move ahead with all the limitations which we have.

The six months which have bygone have brought about a lot of mental stress, have brought about psychological stress. It is for our getting back on track after the lockdown may get over that these few tips would be useful to the legal fraternity by legal fraternity the undersigned also address the staff of courts, who are in a lot of stress these days.

The international data goes to show that danger of these mysterious viral diseases is still there. We need to adopt social distancing measures, here what I mean by social distancing is physical distancing so that level of risk would be much less and we should not be complacent if we are in the age group of 20-30.

If we have serious medical conditions, we should try to develop what I call rejuvenation so that psychologically we would be much better placed. The fear should not deter us and we should take preventive action every day. The World Health Organisation site can be visited as the trends go to show that fear, worry and stress are perceived and become real threats. These would change our daily life patterns.

“The need for ‘spontaneous’ rejuvenation of physical and mental well-being for lawyers and judges. A need in the modern-day scenario” was an article which the undersigned penned before 13 years and while passing through these trying times it is felt the same to be apt even after 13 years of penning the same.

I do not wish to be guilty of new rules of self-plagiarism as this article was penned by me before one decade for an in house journal Nyaypath published by Gujarat State Legal Services Authority.

It is now with great pain that I am forced to again recast this article after the onslaught of the pandemic, and sad demise of my old colleague Satyen not due to COVID but because of ill health in mysterious circumstances.

Like, come September we Indians welcome seasons. The first six months of the English calendar brings various festivities. The festivities of various communities. The coming of spring is also celebrated as bringing with it several festivals.

As said by Richard Carlson in his famous book.

As said by Richard Carlson in his famous book. A powerful and positive personality is necessary for enjoying our profession by being enthusiastic, lively and remaining and having confidence in ourselves. Which we are tending to loose, the reason is obvious the author does not wish to delve deep into reasons but wants the reader to benefit and bounce back mentally, physically and psychologically during these trying times.

The human body is the most complex machine ever built and it is one of the most familiar machines despite that most of us take our body far too much for granted. It is only when something goes wrong with we think of it. We fail to appreciate our own magnificence. The body is like a big city having dozens of power stations, sophisticated communications setup, import raw materials, manufactures goods. We operate a garbage deleting system. These systems are available from the day a person is born. It is important to know that the body is made up of several cells. The invisible muscle cells keep us going. This acts as gate keepers and decides which matter should be admitted and which should be disposed of at controls.

            If nothing went wrong with the body as narrated above, we often neglect it, and therefore, this article is to remind us the neglect of the body under the guise of “I have no time” or “I am in tremendous pressure of work today” and at the end of the day “I feel very tired”. The simple tips can rejuvenate and revitalise the body and the mind and give up the boredom.

Mental well-being is a part of the overall well-being of a human being. It is said that a healthy body will breed a healthy mind. To attain a healthy mind, it is very necessary to attain a healthy body. It would be seen that out of 100 at least 50% of judges suffer from some physical ailment. The reason/answer is very spontaneous – “my working conditions”. “I have a lot of pendency of cases. Where do I have time to spare for recreation or exercise?” It is time to introspect for whom are we working so hard? The answer would be for our family. In a healthy body lives a healthy mind, likewise, if the family head is healthy then only will he be able to provide strong support to his family otherwise the family will have to constantly worry for him. It is an admitted position that judges and lawyers constantly keep their brain engaged in various thoughts i.e. reading for preparing the plaint or reply, preparing to write the judgment, checking of administrative files.

20 minutes in a day for ourselves can we not spare? The answer would be impossible to spare. This is what I would call a negative mindset with which we are pre-occupied meaning thereby “how”, can I waste my time, Sirs, this is not waste of time but is a rare kind of investment. These “40” minutes need not be continuous at one sitting. They can be spread over “5” minutes at “wake up” time, “5” at just before you take tea. “5” just before court, the answer would be I have a lot of work instead of this thinking, practice devoting of 10 minutes to yourself. How? By keeping eyes closed and letting positive thoughts to come to your mind and body. If you think positive, the mindset would enable the positiveness to visit you and see the miracle in being on the dais. It is always the thoughts that determine your attitude for the day.

            It is often said by the entire fraternity that “I don’t have time” but everybody craves peace and mental well-being and that is why from the time of the Britishers, we observe vacation which is in a way physical form of relaxation. Physical relaxation is an escape from tension, but it would not be the solution for mental relaxation. Mental relaxation is tasting very essence of peace of mind. Even if we introspect, we would feel trying to extract peace from the world around us. Physical relaxation can be said to be an escape from tension but it is not a solution by itself. The solution to it would be when a mental connection or union is achieved through some kind of remembrance when the mind is focused on only mental peace. The same can be said to be “Yoga”.

Yoga is nothing else but the ultimate attainment of peace of mind. The word “Yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit root “Yuj” which means to unit, join, harness, contact or connect. It is the fusion of a body with a disciplined mind for the purpose of spiritual development and this gives peace of mind. It is not necessary that this exercise can be performed only in isolation or by taking out a separate time. You can do it even while performing your routine work. Say a simple example would be the rejuvenation of your eyes by sprinkling water during the recess which would give you relaxation. It is even replied that relaxation is to be planned so as to do it later which can be done on vacation in an isolated place or when you get everything done. This is according to me is not the right answer.

Relaxation can be attained at any place at any time as suggested above even while preparing for a case you can relax for five minutes by closing eyes and sitting in silence. Daily twenty minutes of this kind of relaxation exercise would definitely rejuvenate mental and physical well-being. Meditation will make you calm with the strength to deal with any kind of stress which would need only a few moments of self-introspection during day time. The third powerful aspect for refreshing a person to make mind calm is thought, which is not physical energy, which can influence soul and also matter of body. Thought ― on a limited scale, emotions, desires and moods, would generate a field around the body and soul which is like electric field which would develop the need to have a positive mindset which would create a positive atmosphere around and such atmosphere can be said as “atma-sphere”. Thus prevailing modes with meditation, yoga and/or some physical exercise during the 24 hours cycle would keep you healthy, relax and energetic to do the work up to end and to overcome the stress which we would be facing. It also enlightened the power which would create power of thought, imagination, concentration, will-power and attitudinal change. It is wrongly understood that yoga means doing asnas or only physical exercise, that is not so, that is only a form of yoga. Yoga is not a religion. I would like to end this article with the wording of none other than His Lordship Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer as written by him in his book “Off the Bench”:

“The Upanishads are instinct with a spirit of inquiry, of mental adventure, of a passion for finding out the truth about things. The search of this truth is, of course, not by the objective methods of modern science, yet there is an element of the scientific method in the approach. No dogma is allowed to come in the way.

            The aforesaid is now supplemented with the passage of these 13 years which have made life more comfortable with equipment but we are today also facing the same mindset. The difference is these days we have time to devote after gadgets like mobile phones, laptop and other games for amusement but we do not have time for rejuvenating ourselves with the eclipse of Covid-19. We are once again required to rethink as to what should be our primary aim during this pandemic and post-pandemic. As human beings we are undergoing huge stress not only mentally but physically also. The crisis has brought about various issues which can be said to be ceaseless. The media today increases our stress level which in turn disturbs all our life patterns. The mental well-being, physical well-being and social well-being is the need of the day. Before 2020, India had not got a psychosocial toll-free helpline but now it has been started by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, refer to “health and well-being during Covid-19 Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

            We have seen that moratorium are asked due to the lockdown scenario. Individuals and the families are on the brink of mental break down which leads to physical break down also.

            I would not tax the reader with huge sermons but would request my colleagues to follow a good diet regime coupled with what I would call mental well-being to come out of hopelessness, helplessness and we need to train ourselves what is known as mental well-being and follow the strategy so that psychological break down and suicidal tendencies are properly dealt with. Due to lockdown we need to adopt e-learning. We will have to manage our expectations and manage our stress threshold. I would suggest that make routine of your best companion and/or your friend. Hereby, the term “friend” means, faithful, revered, intimate, everlasting, never forsaking and dear. We will have to maintain connection by way of virtual forum.

            I would request each to be mindful and go for regular meditation. Hereby the term “meditation” means not only prayer but to concentrate and make our mind calm so that when we sit to work it give us a nice clinical recession to do our work. I am sure that we need to be mentally and physically well-equipped for the time to come. Mental health would be several family problems also. Here a question to be asked from me that we do not have proper health regime as there is a lockdown of gyms and walking track are also lockdown. Here I am reminded of my maternal uncle who used to stay in Bombay and his house comprised of one room which was partitioned into his kitchen and his bedroom. He used to do his morning exercise for one hour in that small closet and he continued his exercise till recent times. Covid-19 has taught of many lesson. One of them is to maintain yourself in whatever you have.

            The regulations like home confinement should not result in further mental or psychological stress and it is this which has to be avoided and for which we may devote our time for well-being.

            During this pandemic, the suicidal tendencies have also increased and, therefore, emotional well-being will have to be inculcated. An article by Dr Anil Kakunje may also be referred to along with the other websites which are for getting back for mental health and well-being for my brethren and the people at large.

            Thus the undersigned would sum up with a message that we should maintain the inner harmony of an individual vis-à-vis his social well-being. During this pandemic, there may be distancing but the distancing should be not so grave that the patient feels that he is socially boycotted which would in turn cause psychological depression in the entire family and even if Covid-19 does not strike us the after-effect would be so grave that we would be psychologically, physically and mentally we would be losing both health and wealth which would not be good for an individual, family and the society.

            I would like to quote Richard Bach who has always motivated me by his book  Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah wherein he highlights one aspect I quote “here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: if you are alive, it isn’t — illusions”.

            We will have to rejuvenate our respiratory system as both Covid-19 and H1N1 influenza damages our respiratory system and for that the best is as suggested above.

            I would end this article by quoting Sri Sri Ravi Shankar — “We don’t need an excuse to celebrate life”.


Judge, Allahabad High Court.

References:- While writing the article, I have extensively read the below-mentioned books and taken guidance from them while preparing this article.

  1. “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff and its’ all small stuff”.
  2. Know Your Body, II Edition, A Reader’s Digest Guide, RDI Print and Publishing Pvt. Ltd.
  3. New Beginnings; Brahma Kumaris Ishwariya Vishwa Vidyalaya.
  4. Off the Bench, by Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer.
  5. The Speaking Tree- Times of India.
  6. Agony and Ecstasy of A Teenager by Abhisst Thaker
  7. How to Develop a Powerful and Positive Personality by Venkata Iyer
  8. Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach.
  9. https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use/covid-19
  10. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: Krishna S. Dixit, J., quashed the criminal proceedings against 9 foreign nationals belonging to the Tablighi Jamaat while directing FRRO to issue exit permits with imposing a fine and the undertaking to not visiting India for next ten years.

Present petitions challenged the initiation of criminal proceedings inter alia under the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 for the violation of VISAS in question.

Counsel for the petitioner contended that the initiation of criminal proceedings is on a wrong assumption of a jurisdictional fact namely the nature of VISA.

Further, he added that the State is proceedings on a demonstrably wrong premise that the VISAS in question are all Tourist VISAS when they are not.

Central Government holds the power to relieve the foreigners of the criminal action after accepting the fine amounts in terms of the extant norms and therefore, that benefit needs to be extended to the accused.

Decision

Bench observed that there is no dispute as to the 9 of the 16 accused being foreigners who gained entry to India on the basis of VISAS in question.

Section 14 of the Foreigners Act, 1946 criminalizes violation of the conditions of VISA and prescribes punishment of imprisonment that may extend to 5 years and also unlimited fine.

Hence in view of the above, the case thus only revolves around one factor namely the nature of VISA.

Accused’s travel documents show that the VISAS in question granted to them answer the description of and bear the nomenclature “e-Tourist Visa”.

“E-VISAS are granted only for the specified purposes and not granted for any other purpose, the missionary activities such as propagation of religion, participating in religious congregation and proselytization are not entitled as the permissible activities.”

Adding to the above, the Court stated that there is no specific prohibition in the Visas in question for preaching religious principles in the Tablighi congregation, hence what is not provided for in the Visa, is deemed to be impermissible.

Court held that there is absolutely no justification for the allegation of the petitioners that the criminal proceedings initiated by respondent-police, with the prejudice generated by the Media propaganda and for the statistical purpose of the State, there is no iota of material for entertaining such baseless grievance.

Bench laid down the following directions:

  • FRRO is directed to issue exit permits to the petitioners and ensure their exit from the country.
  • Petitioners shall pay the fine amounts and file an undertaking to the effect that they would not visit this Country within the next 10 years.[Farhan Hussain v. State, Criminal Petition No. 2376 of 2020, decided on 05-08-2020]
Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah, JJ will pass the order in the matter related to the problems and miseries of migrant labourers who had been stranded in different parts of the country on June 9, 2020.

“List the matter on 09.06.2020 for orders.”

The Court had, on 26.05.2020, taken up the issue suo motu based on, newspaper and media reports and several letters and representations it received from different sections of society highlighting the problem of migrant labourers. The Court had directed the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to assist the Court and by the next date of hearing bring in the notice of the Court all measures and steps taken by the Government of India and to be taken in this regard.

After receiving the response from the Government, the Court had issued the following interim directions on May 28, 2020:

  1. No fare either by train or by bus shall be charged from any migrant workers.
  2. The migrant workers who are stranded at different places in the country shall be provided food free of cost by the concerned States/Union Territories at different places which shall be publicized and notified to them during the period they are waiting for their turn to board the train or bus.
  3. The originating State shall provide water and meal and during the journey, the railways shall provide meal and water to the migrant workers and same facilities shall be extended when the migrant workers are transported by bus. The State shall take care of providing necessities water and meal during the period of transportation either in the bus or in the camps on the way.
  4. The State shall simplify and speed up the process of registration of migrant workers and also provide help desk for registration at the places where they are stranded.
  5. The State shall try to endeavour that after registration the workers should be asked to board the train or bus at the earliest and complete information should be publicized to all the concerned regarding mode of transport.
  6. Those migrant workers who are found walking on the highways or roads shall be immediately taken care by the concerned State / Union Territories and they shall be provided the transport to the destination and all facilities including food and water be provided to those found walking on the road.
  7. The receiving State, after the migrant workers reach his native place, shall provide transport, health screening and other facilities free of cost.

[In re : Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers, SUO MOTU WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) No(s). 6/2020, order dated 05.06.2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Shopping malls get frequented by large number of people for shopping, entertainment and food. To prevent spread of COVID-19 infection, it is important that required social distancing and other preventive measures are followed.

Shopping malls in containment zones shall remain closed. Only those outside containment zones will be allowed to open up.

All shopping malls shall ensure the following arrangements:

i. Entrance to have mandatory hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and thermal screening provisions.

ii. Only asymptomatic customers/visitors shall be allowed.

iii. All workers/customers/visitors to be allowed entry only if using face cover/masks. The face cover/masks has to be worn at all times inside the shopping mall.

iv. Posters/standees/AV media on preventive measures about COVID-19 to be displayed prominently.

v. Staggering of visitors to be done, if possible.

vi. Adequate manpower shall be deployed by Mall Management for ensuring social distancing norms.

vii. All employees who are at higher risk i.e. older employees, pregnant employees and employees who have underlying medical conditions, to take extra precautions. They should preferably not be exposed to any front-line work requiring direct contact with the public. Shopping Mall management to facilitate work from home wherever feasible.

viii. Proper crowd management in the parking lots and outside the premises – duly following social distancing norms shall be ensured.

ix. Valet parking, if available, shall be operational with operating staff wearing face covers/ masks and gloves as appropriate. A proper disinfection of steering, door handles, keys, etc. of the vehicles should be taken up.

x. Any shops, stalls, cafeteria etc., outside and within the premises shall follow social distancing norms at all times.

xi. Specific markings may be made with sufficient distance to manage the queue and ensure social distancing in the premises.

xii. Preferably separate entry and exits for visitors, workers and goods/supplies shall be organized.

xiii. The staff for home deliveries shall be screened thermally by the shopping mall authorities prior to allowing home deliveries.

xiv. Required precautions while handling supplies, inventories and goods in the shopping mall shall be ensured. Proper queue management and disinfection shall be organized.

xv. Maintaining physical distancing of a minimum of 6 feet, when queuing up for entry and inside the shopping mall as far as feasible.

xvi. Number of customers inside the shop to be kept at a minimum, so as to maintain the physical distancing norms.

xvii. Seating arrangement, if any, to be made in such a way that adequate social distancing is maintained. xviii. Number of people in the elevators shall be restricted, duly maintaining social distancing norms.

xix. Use of escalators with one person on alternate steps may be encouraged.

xx. For air-conditioning/ventilation, the guidelines of CPWD shall be followed which inter alia emphasises that the temperature setting of all air conditioning devices should be in the range of 24-30oC, relative humidity should be in the range of 40-70%, intake of fresh air should be as much as possible and cross ventilation should be adequate.

xxi. Large gatherings/congregations continue to remain prohibited.

xxii. Effective and frequent sanitation within the premises shall be maintained with particular focus on lavatories, drinking and hand washing stations/areas.

xxiii. Cleaning and regular disinfection (using 1% sodium hypochlorite) of frequently touched surfaces (door knobs, elevator buttons, hand rails, benches, washroom fixtures, etc.) to be made mandatory in all malls in common areas as well as inside shops, elevators, escalators etc.

xxiv. Proper disposal of face covers / masks / gloves left over by visitors and/or employees should be ensured.

xxv. Deep cleaning of all washrooms shall be ensured at regular intervals.

xxvi. In the food-courts:

a. Adequate crowd and queue management to be ensured to ensure social distancing norms.

b. In food courts and restaurants, not more than 50% of seating capacity to be permitted.

c. Food court staff / waiters should wear mask and hand gloves and take other required precautionary measures.

d. The seating arrangement should ensure adequate social distancing between patrons as far as feasible.

e. Contactless mode of ordering and digital mode of payment (using e-wallets) to be encouraged.

f. Tables to be sanitized each time customer leaves.

g. In the kitchen, the staff should follow social distancing norms at work place.

xxvii. Gaming Arcades shall remain closed.

xxviii. Children Play Areas shall remain closed.

xxix. Cinema halls inside shopping malls shall remain closed.

xxx. In case of a suspect or confirmed case in the premises:

a. Place the ill person in a room or area where they are isolated from others.

b. Provide a mask/face cover till such time he/she is examined by a doctor.

c. Immediately inform the nearest medical facility (hospital/clinic) or call the state or district helpline.

d. A risk assessment will be undertaken by the designated public health authority (district RRT/treating physician) and accordingly further action be initiated regarding management of case, his/her contacts and need for disinfection.

e. Disinfection of the premises to be taken up if the person is found positive.

Read the detailed notification here.


Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

SOP dt. 04-06-2020][

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Given the current COVID-19 outbreak in India, it is important that restaurants and other hospitality units take suitable measures to restrict any further transmission of the virus while providing restaurant services.

Restaurants in containment zones shall remain closed. Only those outside containment zones will be allowed to open up.

List of Do’s and Dont’s:

i. Takeaways to be encouraged, instead of Dine-In. Food delivery personnel should leave the packet at customer’s door. DO NOT handover the food packet directly to the customer.

ii. The staff for home deliveries shall be screened thermally by the restaurant authorities prior to allowing home deliveries.

iii. Entrance to have mandatory hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and thermal screening provisions.

iv. Only asymptomatic staff and patrons shall be allowed.

v. All staff and patrons to be allowed entry only if using face cover/masks. The face cover/masks has to be worn at all times inside the restaurant.

vi. Posters/standees/AV media on preventive measures about COVID-19 to be displayed prominently.

vii. Staggering of patrons to be done, if possible.

viii. Adequate manpower shall be deployed by restaurant management for ensuring social distancing norms.

ix. All employees who are at higher risk i.e. older employees, pregnant employees and employees who have underlying medical conditions, to take extra precautions. They should preferably not be exposed to any front-line work requiring direct contact with the public. Restaurant management to facilitate work from home wherever feasible.

x. Proper crowd management in the parking lots and outside the premises – duly following social distancing norms shall be ensured.

xi. Additional patrons to be seated in a designated waiting area with norms of social distancing.

xii. Valet parking, if available, shall be operational with operating staff wearing face covers/ masks and gloves as appropriate. A proper disinfection of steering, door handles, keys, etc. of the vehicles should be taken up.

xiii. Specific markings may be made with sufficient distance to manage the queue and ensure social distancing in the premises.

xiv. Preferably separate entry and exits for patrons, staff and goods/supplies shall be organized.

xv. Required precautions while handling supplies, inventories and goods in the restaurant shall be ensured. Proper queue management and disinfection shall be organized.

xvi. Maintaining physical distancing of a minimum of 6 feet, when queuing up for entry and inside the restaurant as far as feasible.

xvii. Seating arrangement to be made in such a way that adequate social distancing is maintained.In restaurants, not more than 50% of seating capacity to be permitted.

xviii. Disposable menus are advised to be used.

xix. Instead of cloth napkins, use of good quality disposable paper napkins to be encouraged.

xx. Buffet service should also follow social distancing norms among patrons.

xxi. Number of people in the elevators shall be restricted, duly maintaining social distancing norms.

xxii. Use of escalators with one person on alternate steps may be encouraged.

xxiii. For air-conditioning/ventilation, the guidelines of CPWD shall be followed which inter alia emphasises that the temperature setting of all air conditioning devices should be in the range of 24-30oC, relative humidity should be in the range of 40- 70%, intake of fresh air should be as much as possible and cross ventilation should be adequate.

xxiv. Large gatherings/congregations continue to remain prohibited.

xxv. Effective and frequent sanitation within the premises shall be maintained with particular focus on lavatories, drinking and hand washing stations/areas.

xxvi. Cleaning and regular disinfection (using 1% sodium hypochlorite) of frequently touched surfaces (door knobs, elevator buttons, hand rails, benches, washroom fixtures, etc.) to be made mandatory in all guest service area and common areas.

xxvii. Proper disposal of face covers / masks / gloves left over by patrons and/or staff should be ensured.

xxviii. Deep cleaning of all washrooms shall be ensured at regular intervals.

xxix. Adequate crowd and queue management to be ensured to ensure social distancing norms.

xxx. Staff / waiters should wear mask and hand gloves and take other required precautionary measures.

xxxi. Contactless mode of ordering and digital mode of payment (using e-wallets) to be encouraged.

xxxii. Tables to be sanitized each time customer leaves.

xxxiii. In the kitchen, the staff should follow social distancing norms at work place. Kitchens area must be sanitized at regular intervals.

xxxiv. Gaming Arcades/Children play areas (wherever applicable) shall remain closed.

xxxv. In case of a suspect or confirmed case in the premises:

a. Place the ill person in a room or area where they are isolated from others.

b. Provide a mask/face cover till such time he/she is examined by a doctor.

c. Immediately inform the nearest medical facility (hospital/clinic) or call the state or district helpline.

d. A risk assessment will be undertaken by the designated public health authority (district RRT/treating physician) and accordingly further action be initiated regarding management of case, his/her contacts and need for disinfection.

e. Disinfection of the premises to be taken up if the person is found positive.


Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

[SOP dt. 4-06-2020]

Image Credits: NDTV.com

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of S.J. Kathawalla and Surendra P. Tavade, JJ. while addressing a petition sought clarification from the expert committee as to:

Whether by a mere touch of a person carrying COVID19 virus, the virus can be transmitted to the person so touched?

DGCA had laid emphasis on minutes of meeting of the Expert Committee held on 26th May, 2020 to review and further strengthen the public health related protocols of air travel.

Bench noted the following statements from the said minutes:

Paragraph 12 :

“The physical distance between two persons helps in minimizing the transmission through an inadvertent touch”

Paragraph 14 :

“It was also suggested that if the person sitting adjacent to another person is provided with a protective suit (like a gown covering the upper part of the body and gloves), this can also be very good means of preventing the spread of virus either by droplets or by touch.”

Paragraph 14 :

“The Committee felt that providing protective gowns to intervening passengers (passengers who are seated between two persons) would also minimise the risk of transmission through an inadvertent touch while in the aircraft or while boarding or alighting.”

Thus, Court sought for clarification from the expert committee whether by merely touching a person with COVID19 the same could be transmitted to the person who touched.

Matter to be listed on 5th June, 2020.[Deven Yogesh Kanani v. DGCA, AD-HOC-No. WP-LD-VC-3 of 2020, decided on 4-06-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Gujarat High Court: A.S. Supehia, J., rejected the bail application filed by “Asharam Bapu” in light of COVID19, since there is a strong possibility that on his release, several of his followers will congregate to meet him.

Present temporary bail application was filed to seek the same for a period of four months.

Following are the grounds on which the bail was sought:

  • Due to the COVID19 Pandemic applicant has all probability of getting infected in the jail at Rajasthan; applicant-accused, is in judicial custody since last several years and he is suffering from various ailments.
  • In the Jodhpur Jail, some of the prisoners are affected with Corona Virus and hence, there is every likelihood that the applicant may also get affected
  • As per the guidelines issued by the Central Government and the State Government aged persons are likely to be affected with Corona Virus and hence, the applicant is required to be released on temporary bail

Bench on perusal of the above, stated that no new ground has been raised by the applicant to seek bail though he made a specific averment that he has number of followers, to which the Court stated that,

it would not be apposite to release the applicant on bail in light of the prevailing situation of Covid 2019, since there is a strong possibility that on release of the applicant, his thousands of followers will congregate to meet him, which will aggravate the distressing situation.

Thus, bail application is rejected in view of the terms.[Asharam v. State of Gujarat, R/Criminal Misc. Application no. 7349 of 2020, decided on 03-06-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of D.N. Patel, CJ and Prateek Jalan, J., addressed the concern with regard to providing ration to needy without any discrimination on the basis of ration card holders or non-holders.

Present petition pertained with regard to issuance of direction to respondents

  • to supply and provide the Corona Relief kit, food grains and food relief of the same level and status as given to ration card holders from 24th March, 2020 till operation of Disaster Management Act due to COVID19.
  • Ensure sufficient food grains, Corona relief kit be available at PDS Shops.
  • to produce the data, details and information in respect of Corona Relief Kit and 10 kg. food grains given to the Aadhar Card/Voter card holders and any other needy person.
  • to take the action against the arraying officials who have breach their duty for implementing the directions, orders, advisory, instruction given under the provisions of Disaster Management Act i.e. Section 55 and 56.”

Main Grievance

The primary grievance is with regard to discrimination being done by the respondents between ration card holders and non-ration card holders in providing Corona Relief Kits, Food grains/rice.

ASG, Sanjay Jain on behalf of GNCTD submitted that respondent 6 had filed an affidavit wherein it had been stated that there is no discrimination being done between the ration card holder and no-ration card holder.

Further it he added that, GNCTD had taken adequate steps to ensure that no one suffers from hunger/starvation in Delhi. In this regard, a special food relief initiative, i.e., “Mukhya Mantri Corona Sahayata Yojana” was launched to provide dry ration to all persons in need of food.

ASG further submitted that the eligible households under National Food Security Act, 2013 are divided into two categories, i.e., Priority Households and Antyodaya Anna Yojana households.

As per the Act, every person belonging to Priority Households are entitled to receive 5 Kg of food grains per person per month at subsidized prices and Households covered under Antoyodaya Anna Yojana will be entitled to receive 35 Kg of food grains.

ASG further submitted that under Mukhya Mantri Corona Sahayta Yojana, every Member of Parliament and Member of Legislative Assembly of Delhi have been provided with 2000 Emergency Food Relief Coupons which can be issue by them to the most vulnerable and poor persons in need of food but without both ration card and Aadhaar card and also in addition 20,000 similar coupons have also been made for Minister Food and Supply, Delhi. These coupons are provided to them on monthly basis.

Government is also running more than 1800 Hunger Relief Centers, where approximately 8 to 10 lakhs people are served lunch and dinner daily.

Furthermore, people who are for some reason are not able to avail the benefit of the dry ration or find the quantity of ration insufficient, and are in need of food, can get cooked meals at these Hunger Relief Centers which are being run by the State Government all across Delhi.

In order to cover non-PDS beneficiaries in need of food, under the recently announced “Atma Nirbhar Bharat” initiative of Government of India, provision of 5 kgs. of foodgrains per person per month, free of cost has been made to the migrants/ stranded migrants with a ceiling or 10% or total PDS beneficiaries in the state.

Decision

Bench on perusal of the above, observed that several steps had been taken by respondents to provide food grains and cooked food to public at large irrespective of having ration cards or not.

Thus, grievances ventilated by the petitioner about the discrimination between the ration card holders and others is not tenable as various schemes have been floated by the Centre and State along with Hunger Relief Centers.

Hence, lastly the Court stated that the schemes floated shall be scrupulously followed for the welfare of pubic at large and may continue even after the lockdown ends.

Respondents may also take steps to enhance the coverage or benefits of the schemes floated by them, to realise their objective that no person in Delhi should go hungry by reason of the present lockdown.

Petition was disposed of in the above view. [Nayee Soch Society v. MHA, WP(C) 3242 of 2020, decided on 02-06-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: After taking suo motu cognizance of problems and miseries of migrant labourers who had been stranded in different parts of the country on Tuesday and receiving a response from Government, the 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah, JJ has issued interim directions and has held that no fare either by train or by bus shall be charged from any migrant workers.

“The railway fare shall be shared by the States as per their arrangement as submitted by the learned Solicitor General and in no case any fare should be asked or charged from any migrant workers by the States and the Railways.”

The Court had, on 26.05.2020, taken up the issue suo motu based on, newspaper and media reports and several letters and representations it received from different sections of society highlighting the problem of migrant labourers. The Court had directed the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to assist the Court and by the next date of hearing bring in the notice of the Court all measures and steps taken by the Government of India and to be taken in this regard.

Submissions by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta

  • from 01.05.2020, the migrant workers have been sent to their destination i.e. home town by Shramik trains and also by road. 50 lacs migrant workers have been shifted by Shramik trains and about 41 lac migrant workers have been transported by road transport.
  • food and water are provided by the originating concerned State from where the migrant workers start their journey and when the journey is undertaken by railways, the railways provides the meal.
  • the receiving State takes care of the migrant workers and drop them to their home by buses. It also takes steps for quarantining those workers and necessary screening is also conducted.
  • the fare is borne either by the originating State or the receiving State as per their internal arrangement.
  • all the States have set up different relief camps where migrant workers are provided water, food, stay etc. and with regard to migrant workers who are staying in different places in the country, they are provided under the scheme of the Government ration to them even without they having any ration card.
  • all the migrant workers do not intend to go back to their native place due to opening up of so many industries / establishments.
  • wherever the migrant workers are found walking on-foot, there are instructions to the State Authorities to facilitate a bus or a vehicle for them to take to their onward journey or they are sent to relief camps and provided shelter and food.

Observations of the Court

The Court noticed that although there is no doubt that the concerned State Governments/Union Territories are taking steps to do the needful but there are several difficulties and lapses which are being noticed. It was, however, of the opinion that

“both the Central Government and the State Governments / Union Territories are required to be given some reasonable time to bring the steps taken by them on the record.”

It, hence, issued interim directions pending consideration of the detailed reply and affidavits from the State Governments and the Central Government.

Interim Directions

  1. No fare either by train or by bus shall be charged from any migrant workers.
  2. The migrant workers who are stranded at different places in the country shall be provided food free of cost by the concerned States/Union Territories at different places which shall be publicized and notified to them during the period they are waiting for their turn to board the train or bus.
  3. The originating State shall provide water and meal and during the journey, the railways shall provide meal and water to the migrant workers and same facilities shall be extended when the migrant workers are transported by bus. The State shall take care of providing necessities water and meal during the period of transportation either in the bus or in the camps on the way.
  4. The State shall simplify and speed up the process of registration of migrant workers and also provide help desk for registration at the places where they are stranded.
  5. The State shall try to endeavour that after registration the workers should be asked to board the train or bus at the earliest and complete information should be publicized to all the concerned regarding mode of transport.
  6. Those migrant workers who are found walking on the highways or roads shall be immediately taken care by the concerned State / Union Territories and they shall be provided the transport to the destination and all facilities including food and water be provided to those found walking on the road.
  7. The receiving State, after the migrant workers reach his native place, shall provide transport, health screening and other facilities free of cost.

The Court will next take up the matter on 05.06.2020.

[In re : Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers, SUO MOTU WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) No(s). 6/2020, order dated 28.05.2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Taking suo motu cognizance of problems and miseries of migrant labourers who had been stranded in different parts of the country, the 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah, JJ has issued notice to the Union of India and all States / Union Territories to submit their responses by Thursday i.e. 28.05.2020, looking into the urgency of the matter.

The Court took sup motu cognizance based on, newspaper and media reports and several letters and representations it received from different sections of society highlighting the problem of migrant labourers.

The Court said that the newspaper reports and the media reports have been continuously showing the unfortuanate and miserable conditions of migrant labourers walking on-foot and cycles from long distances. They have also been complaining of not being provided food and water by the administration at places where they were stranded or in the way i.e. highways from which they proceeded on-foot, cycles or other modes of transport.

“In the present situation of lockdown in the entire country, this section of the society needs succor and help by the concerned Governments especially steps need to be taken by the Government of India, State Governments/Union Territories in this difficult situation to extend helping hand to these migrant labourers.”

Noticing that although the Government of India and the State Governments have taken measures yet there have been inadequacies and certain lapses, the Court was of the view that effective concentrated efforts are required to redeem the situation. It said,

“The adequate transport arrangement, food and shelters are immediately to be 1 provided by the Centre and State Governments free of costs.”

The Court, hence, directed the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to assist the Court and by the next date of hearing bring in the notice of the Court all measures and steps taken by the Government of India and to be taken in this regard.

[In re : Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers. SUO MOTU WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) No(s). 6/2020, order dated 26.05.2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of Abhay Shreeniwas Oka, CJ and B.V. Nagarathna, J. while deciding with regard to the issue of train fare of migrant workers held that,

“…because of the reluctance of the State Government to bear the train fare of the migrant workers who are not in a position to pay will be continued to stay in the State and look upon to the State Government for providing food and other necessities.”

State Government stated that it is not in a position to pay train fare in respect of the migrant workers who wish to travel to their respective States by Shramik special trains.

Further, it was submitted that, so long as the migrants are living in the State and the present crisis continues, the State will continue to take care of the interests of the migrants and every effort will be made to ensure that they find vocation within the State. If the migrants wish to leave the State, the Government will not impose any restriction for such travel.

There has to be a clarity on the question of the extent of fare charged by the Railways for Shramik special trains.

Bench noted that, none of the submissions of State mentioned with regard to the issue of bearing train fare payable by migrants.

We are not made aware whether any such conscious decision has been taken that the State will not pay the train fare payable to enable those migrant workers to travel by Shramik special trains who are not in a position to pay the train fare.

Further, the Court added to its conclusion that, because of the reluctance of the State Government to bear the train fare of the migrant workers who are not in a position to pay, apart from the allegation that it will violate the fundamental rights of the migrant workers, they will be forced to continue to stay in the State.

They will have to look upon to the State Government for providing food and other necessities.

Migrant workers who are staying in the State by leaving their families in the States of their origin are in precarious position because they are unable to send money for the maintenance of their respective families. These are all human issues which need to be addressed by the State Government as well as the Central Government, considering the concept of Welfare State.

Court directed :

  • the Chief Secretary of the State Government as well as the Secretary of the Labour Department of the State Government to remain present for video conferencing hearing on Tuesday, 26th May, 2020.
  • Additional Solicitor General of India to take instruction from the Central Government and Railways on the question of waiver of train fare for the migrants who have been stranded in the State and who are not in a position to pay.
  • State Government must also make it clear how long it will take care of such migrant workers and their families.
  •  Additional Solicitor General will take instructions whether the State can be permitted to use the funds transferred by the National Disaster Response Fund for payment of train fare of the migrants who are not in a position to pay any amount.

Petition to be listed on 26th May, 2020. [Mohammad Arif Jameel v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine Kar 537 , decided on 21-05-2020]