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 BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A Division Bench of Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ. directed an expert committee constituted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in pursuance of the Supreme Court’s earlier Order dated 16-07-2019, to enquire into all relevant aspects bearing upon the need for disinfection of aircraft as a measure designed to control the spread of vector-borne diseases.

Court noted that, “The issue of disinfecting of aircraft involves, on the one hand, concerns relating to the need to take steps for preventing the transmission of vector-borne diseases. On the other hand, it involves issues pertaining to the health of passengers and crew who may be exposed to insecticides. Hence, we are of the view that the entire matter should be directed to be considered by the above Committee.”

Thus, on noting the above, the Supreme Court bench directed the above-said committee to enquire upon into all the aspects in regard to disinfection of aircraft and also stated that the ambit of reference made to the Committee will not be restricted and it should have the opportunity to enquire into all the relevant aspects. The aspect could illustratively include:

  • The need, if any, for disinsection of aircraft;
  • The recommendations made by WHO and the best practices followed internationally;
  • The impact of disinsection on the health and safety of passengers and crew;
  • If disinsection is necessary, the modalities to be followed for disinfection; and
  • The steps which are required to be taken to ensure that adequate safeguards are observed to protect the health and safety of passengers and crew who may be exposed to disinfection if disinfection is required.

Further, the Committee has been asked to submit its report within a period of two months. Clarification on Solicitor General’s request was made by the Court that, if the Committee would consider it necessary to seek a demonstration of the process the interim order will not come in the way of the demonstration being made to the Committee.

The appeal has been further listed for 07-02-2020. [Interglobe Aviation Ltd. v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1538, decided on 29-11-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): The bench comprising of A.K. Goel (Chairperson), S.P. Wangdi, K. Ramakrishnan, JM and Dr Nagin Nanda (EM) addressed an application filed based on newspaper reports in regard to a concern being placed of the “waste water generated during Reverse Osmosis (RO) process.”

The applicant has filed that only 20% of the water fed to RO system is purified and 80% is left unpurified.

“Water being a scarce commodity, such huge wastage is not affordable and has an adverse impact on the ecology.”

Further, the point to be noted is that the application was filed on 24-04-2015, for which tribunal had issued notice on 29-04-2015 to the Ministry of Water Resources, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Ministry of Environment and Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and Association of RO Manufacturers.

Ministry of Water Resources stated that manufacturers of RO systems will be in a better position to assist the Tribunal. It was also stated that 98 districts in 13 States in India are affected by high arsenic contamination in groundwater. High Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) are common which can adversely affect the health. Thus, RO system is helpful in the situation. The residue of purified water is not water wasted but the water consumed in the same way as the water is leftover after washing clothes or after bathing.

The applicant submitted that polluted water rejected by the RO system mixes with the ground water and creates further complexity and ultimately RO system instead of helping to the ecology, causes further damage.

WQIA in an affidavit stated that the Indian Standard (IS 10500:2012-Second Revision) was adopted by the Bureau of Indian Standards, after the draft finalized by the Drinking Water Sectional Committee had been approved by the Food and Agriculture Division Council, best available technology for purifying the drinking water in regard to achieving the stated standard was RO system.

Tribunal on analysing the stated facts and submissions of the both the sides, stated that there is no denying to the fact that while purification may help public health by avoiding adverse effect of heavy metals or other contaminators, the fact remains that the rejected water remaining major part which goes to the ground water and again contaminates even the pure ground water.

Further, the bench stated in its analysis that, while purity of drinking water is a priority, the process of purification should not result in contamination of the remaining available water. Tribunal by placing a few questions for the expert committee formed by the tribunal itself asked to furnish a report within 4 months along with a report stating the best possible secondary use of the rejected water by commercial and individual users of RO. The application was thus disposed of by placing it up for consideration on 14-05-2019. [Friends v. Ministry of Water Resources, 2018 SCC OnLine NGT 360, Order dated 20-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu & Kashmir High Court: The Single Judge Bench comprising of M.K. Hanjura, J., decided in a writ petition that the decision of an Empowered committee on matters like, provision of security, shelter and accommodation to a person cannot be challenged in Court of law.

The petitioner contends that he has been victimized by different militant organizations due to him being a political worker of the Indian National Congress and for the same reason he lost his son as well. Petitioner had approached the competent authority for the provision of accommodation for which he was provided appropriate accommodation along with a relief of Rs. 4,000 every month by the Relief Commissioner. Further it has been stated by him that he was forcibly taken by the militant and after his release when he returned back to the place he was staying all his belongings were thrown out and his accommodation was allotted to some other person leaving him with no shelter and the relief which was being provided to him also stopped.

Petitioner had filed various representations for the above-stated reasons but nothing going in his favour he had to approach the High Court in regard to these issues.

The Hon’ble High Court, on noting the stated facts and circumstances of the petitioner’s grievance, sought the records of the case and it was found that the Empowered committee had concluded that the relief to the petitioner does not fall within the ambit of the policy and recommendation of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC).

Therefore, the High Court while dismissing the petition stated that, when the question of correctness of the reasons for a decision taken by the Government comes under the radar, then it is not a matter of concern in the judicial review and Court is not the appropriate forum, unless the policy decision is offending the basic requirement of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. [Ghulam Ahmad Lone v. State of J&K; 2018 SCC OnLine J&K 288; decided on 09-05-2018]