Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Human Rights Commission India has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report that a 5-year-old girl has allegedly died due to starvation and ill health as the family was not able to get food and medicinal care for her in Agra district of Uttar Pradesh.

The Commission has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary of Government of Uttar Pradesh calling for a detailed report within 4 weeks including the relief and rehabilitation provided to the family by the administration and the action taken against the delinquent officials. The Chief Secretary is also expected to issue instructions to all the district authorities to ensure that such incidents of cruelty and negligence should not recur in future.

The Commission has observed that a five-year-old innocent girl has apparently died due to starvation and illness while a number of social welfare schemes run by the Central and the State Government do exist. During the period of lockdown, the government agencies have specifically introduced number of schemes for the poor, migrant labourers and other vulnerable sections of the society. The State Government has made several statements that they are committed to ensure Right to Food, Shelter and Livelihood for the poor people and have been working on issues relating to labourers and labour laws but this heart-wrenching incident shows a different picture.

The Commission has further observed that it is not understandable what is the benefit of announcement of number of schemes when they do not reach the beneficiaries. A poor girl has lost her life, the breadwinner of the family is suffering from tuberculosis and is bedridden. The family is not only financially poor but also belongs to the Scheduled Caste for which special schemes have been announced by the Central and the State governments.

This is a serious issue of violation of human rights due to gross negligence by the local administration. It is for the local public servants to honestly implement the schemes, so that the poor and needy can avail the benefits which , apparently was not done in this case. Had the authorities been sincere and vigilant, loss of a precious human life could have been averted. The State cannot escape its liability and there is a need to fix the responsibility of the public servants who have not acted in accordance with the law to help the aggrieved family.

Reportedly, the girl was living with her parents and sister at Nagla Vidhichand village in Agra’s Baroli Ahir block. The family was without any work for about a month and in recent weeks the family went without food. Many families in the localities like them do not have a ration card. The five-year-old girl Sonia had become weak and had fever for three days. She could not bear the pain and succumbed to illness and hunger on Friday night.

The local authorities reportedly did nothing to help the family-like securing food in the lockdown-induced crisis. The District Administration has said it will find out where things went wrong and they have taken cognizance of the matter and an investigation has been ordered into the child’s death. Further, the District Administration said that the family has buried the body, which they should not have done as a postmortem would have ascertained the cause of death.

Reportedly, the District Magistrate has agreed that the families are suffering and he will ensure that all possible help is provided to the family.


National Human Rights Commission

Press Release dt. 23-08-2020

COVID 19Legislation UpdatesNotifications

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued new guidelines today for opening up of more activities in areas outside the Containment Zones. In Unlock 4, which will come into effect from September 1, 2020, the process of phased re-opening of activities has been extended further. The new guidelines, issued today, are based on feedback received from States and UTs, and extensive consultations held with related Central Ministries and Departments.

Salient features of the new guidelines

  • Metro rail will be allowed to operate with effect from 7th September 2020 in a graded manner, by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA)/ Ministry of Railways (MOR), in consultation with MHA. In this regard, Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) will be issued by MOHUA.
  • Social/ academic/ sports/ entertainment/ cultural/ religious/ political functions and other congregations will be permitted with a ceiling of 100 persons, with effect from 21st September 2020. However, such limited gatherings can be held with mandatory wearing of face masks, social distancing, provision for thermal scanning and hand wash or sanitizer.
  • Open air theatres will be permitted to open with effect from 21st September 2020.
  • After extensive consultation with States and UTs, it has been decided that Schools, colleges, educational and coaching institutions will continue to remain closed for students and regular class activity up to 30th September 2020. Online/distance learning shall continue to be permitted and shall be encouraged. However, following will be permitted, in areas outside the Containment Zones only, with effect from 21st September 2020 for which, SOP will be issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW):
    1. States/ UTs may permit upto 50% of teaching and non-teaching staff to be called to the schools at a time for online teaching/ tele- counselling and related work.
    2. Students of classes 9 to 12 may be permitted to visit their schools, in areas outside the Containment Zones only, on voluntary basis, for taking guidance from their teachers. This will be subject to written consent of their parents/ guardians.
    3. Skill or Entrepreneurship training will be permitted in National Skill Training Institutes, Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), Short term training centres registered with National Skill Development Corporation or State Skill Development Missions or other Ministries of Government of India or State Governments.

National Institute for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development (NIESBUD), Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE) and their training providers will also be permitted.

  • Higher Education Institutions only for research scholars (Ph.D.) and post-graduate students of technical and professional programmes requiring laboratory/ experimental works. These will be permitted by the Department of Higher Education (DHE) in consultation with MHA, based on the assessment of the situation, and keeping in view incidence of COVID-19 in the States/ UTs.
  • All activities, except the following, shall be permitted outside containment zones:
  1. Cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres (excluding open air theatre) and similar places.
  2. International air travel of passengers, except as permitted by MHA.
  • Lockdown shall continue to be implemented strictly in the Containment Zones till 30th September, 2020.
  • Containment Zones shall be demarcated by the District authorities at micro level after taking into consideration the guidelines of MoHFW with the objective of effectively breaking the chain of transmission. Strict containment measures will be enforced in these containment zones and only essential activities will be allowed.
  • Within the containment zones, strict perimeter control shall be maintained and only essential activities allowed.
  • These Containment Zones will be notified on the websites of the respective District Collectors and by the States/ UTs and information will also be shared with MOHFW.

States not to impose any local lockdown outside Containment Zones

State/ UT Governments shall not impose any local lockdown (State/ District/ sub-division/City/ village level), outside the containment zones, without prior consultation with the Central Government.

No restriction on Inter-State and intra-State movement

  • There shall be no restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods. No separate permission/ approval/ e-permit will be required for such movements.

National Directives for COVID-19 management

  • National Directives for COVID-19 management shall continue to be followed throughout the country, with a view to ensure social distancing.  Shops will need to maintain adequate physical distancing among customers. MHA will monitor the effective implementation of National Directives.

Protection for vulnerable persons

  • Vulnerable persons, i.e., persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, are advised to stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for health purposes.

Use of Aarogya Setu

  • The use of Aarogya Setu mobile application will continue to be encouraged.

Click here to see MHA Guidelines

Click here to see D.O Letter

Read the guidelines here: UNLOCK-4 GUIDELINES


Ministry of Home Affairs

[Press Release dt. 29-08-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

The Centre has asked the States that there should be no restrictions imposed on the inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods and services during the present prevailing Unlock-3 guidelines.

In a communication to Chief Secretaries of all States, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has stated that it has been reported that local level restrictions on movement are being imposed by various districts/States.  Such restrictions are creating problems in the inter-State movement of goods and services and are impacting the supply chain, resulting in disruption of economic activities and employment, besides affecting the supply of goods and services.

The MHA has said such restrictions at the local level imposed by District Administrations or by States, amount to a violation of the guidelines issued by the MHA under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

Drawing attention to the MHA’s Order dated July 29, 2020, specifying Guidelines for Unlock-3, the communication reiterates that there shall be no restriction on inter-State and Intra-State movement of persons and goods. No separate permission/ approval/ e-permit will be required for such movements.

This includes the movement of persons and goods for cross land border trade under Treaties with neighbouring countries.


Ministry of Home Affairs

[Press Release dt. 22-08-2020]

[Source: PIB]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

In view of the prevailing situation of the spread of coronavirus (2019-nCOV) pandemic in the NCT of Delhi, the Administrative and General Supervision Committee of the Delhi High Court extends the suspension of the functioning of the Court (except for the Court of Registrars/Joint Registrars) till 31-08-2020.

All the Benches of the Delhi High Court would continue to take up and hear all the urgent matters through videoconferencing.

The Courts of Registrars and Joint Registrars of this Court shall take up the matters through videoconferencing, where the files are already scanned. The evidence be recorded in ex-parte and uncontested matters where the same is required to be tendered by way of affidavit.

It has also been ordered that the Courts of Registrars and Joint Registrars of this Court shall not pass any adverse order in non-urgent/routine matters where the concerned advocate/litigant is unable to join the proceedings through video conferencing, till the time the physical functioning of the courts is resumed.

It has further been directed that subject to complete availability of public transport and subject to the situation in Delhi remaining stable, a plan be evolved for the gradual opening of physical courts from 1st September, 2020 onwards.

Read the detailed order here: High Court Lockdown upto 31.8.2020

PublicNotice_HU6IY8U125P


Delhi High Court

[Office Order dt. 15-08-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19District Court

District Court, Saket, Delhi: Raj Kumar Chauhan, J., directed “Miniso” to pay the rent arrears for the lockdown and post lockdown period stating that the company has no dearth of money as the company has been operating almost 10 similar premises on rent in Delhi successfully.

Lease

Allegations placed by the petitioners are that they had leased their property to respondent i.e. Miniso Life Style Private Limited.

Monthly Rent

Monthly rent of the leased out property was Rs 9,75,000/- plus GST per month and the same was to be paid in equal proportions to lessor 1, 2 and 3 as per the agreement signed between the parties.

Head of Business Development of Miniso i.e. respondent asked the petitioner to consider the waiver of rent for the time period of lockdown — April, 2020 to May, 2020.

Further, the petitioner informed the respondent that as per clause 12 of the agreement i.e. Force Majeure Clause was not applicable to the existing circumstances and respondent cannot take unjust and wrongful benefit of said clause.

Though the petitioners agreed to waive the penal interest on the delayed payment @18% p.a. but the respondent continued to threaten for creating third party interest in the demised premises.

Petitioners were represented by Counsels Gaganmeet Singh Sachdeva, Sumit Thakur and Counsel for the respondent was Akash Tyagi.

Legal Notice

Petitioners had to in view of the above circumstances send a legal notice for recovery of rent and arrears on 23-05-2020.

Later the respondent sent a proposal of paying 70% of the arrears of rent for the month of April and 90% of the rent for June and July, 2020.

Petitioners in good­faith and trust sent the invoices of the rent for the above stated months and requested the respondent to pay the payment after deducting 15% rebate for arrears of rent for April, May, alongwith rent of June and July.

Despite sharing the invoice the respondent did not clear the arrears of rent and stopped taking calls from the petitioners.

In view of the above circumstances, the present petition was filed.

Respondents contention was with regard to the maintainability of the petitions stating that Clause 12 of the Lease Deed provides eventualities wherein in case the demised Premises is, whether fully or partially, destroyed or damaged by any Act of God, such as by flood, earthquake, storm etc. save and except fire, becomes unfit for occupation or use, the rent payable by the respondent shall be suspended till such time as the Demised Premises is once again rendered fit for use and occupation by the respondent.

Counsel for the Petitioners relied upon the decision in, Sona Corporation India (P) Ltd. v. Ingram Micro India (P) Ltd., O.M.P (COMM.) 249/2018 and Ramanand v. Dr Girish Soni, R. C. Rev. No. 447 of 2017.

The above two cases were cited with respect to the contentions that Court under Section 9 of the Arbitration Act can direct the payment of rent due as well as future rent in the same manner as the Court can grant in a civil suit under Order 39 Rule 10 CPC.

Adding to the above, the latter case was relied upon to rebut the respondent’s claim for waiver of rent.

Decision

Bench on perusal of the referred provisions and sections of Arbitration Act and CPC held that the respondents are directed to pay admitted rent to the petitioner for the period which has not been paid for the leased premises alongwith future payment also be paid as per the lease deed.

Further, adding to its analysis of the facts, Court stated that on perusal of the force majeure clause in the agreement, it can be stated that the lessee is entitled to suspension of the rent only if the property has been damaged or destroyed by any force Majeure event.

Admittedly, the property in question has not been damaged/destroyed in force majeure event.

Hence, in view of the law laid down by Delhi High Court in the decision of Sona Corporation India (P) Ltd. v. Ingram Micro India (P) Ltd., O.M.P(COMM.) 249/2018 and Ramanand v. Dr Girish Soni, R. C. Rev. No. 447 of 2017, Court concluded its decision stating that,

“mere temporary non-use of the tenanted premises by the respondent and yet being in power and possession of the premises in view of the temporary lockdown due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the said event cannot be covered under the force Majeure clause of the lease agreement.”

Therefore, the respondent cannot claim waiver of rent.

Hence the Court is empowered under Section 9 of the Arbitration Act to order payment of arrears of rent for the lockdown period and also post lockdown period.

In view of the above terms, petitions were disposed off. [Uma Sharma v. Miniso Life Style (P) Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine Del 979, decided on 06-08-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: After Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted before the bench of AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari that as of today only ten petitioners in the Tablighi Jamaat case have decided to contest the criminal cases pending against them and are not willing to exercise the option of plea bargaining, the Bench directed that the criminal cases concerning these ten petitioners pending in different Trial Courts in the NCT of Delhi be brought before the same Court i.e. to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, South-East Delhi, Saket Court Complex, Saket, so that all the cases can be disposed of expeditiously. It further directed the said Court to dispose of all the cases expeditiously preferably within eight weeks from today.

SG also submitted before the Court that  if the concerned petitioners tender apology, as envisaged by the Madras High Court in the concerned criminal case, the said petitioners can be permitted to leave India despite the pendency of the criminal case but subject to such orders that may be passed by the concerned Trial Court.

He also told that Court that the look out notices issued against the petitioner(s) before this Court stand withdrawn and that the concerned petitioner(s) will be free to leave India subject to any other pending proceedings including order passed by the Court requiring his/her presence in the stated proceedings.

The Court has listed the matter after 8 weeks.

Petitioners who are foreign nationals were arrested by respondent police on the ground that they had engaged in religious activities in breach of visa conditions. They defied COVID-19 lockdown norms as were imposed by the Government. In the norms, religious places were ordered for closure, yet the petitioners allegedly stayed inside the mosques in groups by defying the norms laid down by the Government.

Thus, in view of the above stated reasons, FIRs were lodged against the petitioners for committing offences under Section 13 and 14 of the Foreigners Act, 2014, Sections 188, 269, 270, 271 and 278 of IPC, Section 3 of Epidemic Diseases Act 1897, Section 58(4), 134, 135 of the Tamil Nadu Public Health Act, 1939 and Section 51(b) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

Madras High Court had, in it’s June 12 order said that the petitioners had come to India to serve the cause of their religion. Circumstances suddenly turned adverse and landed them in prison. They have spent more than 70 days in what are truly difficult conditions.

“Merely because the petitioners have contravened the visa conditions, they cannot be seen as criminals.”

[Maulana Ala Hadrami v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 629, order dated 06.08.2020]


ALSO READ

Madras HC | Tablighi Jamaat | Foreigners who attended congregation not criminals: HC grants bail and allows return of foreigners to native country


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Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ and Sarang V. Kotwal, J., has advised the Maharashtra Government to take an informed decision regarding the concerns voiced by advocates and their staff. The Court was hearing PILs which sought inclusion of advocates and legal practitioners in the list of essential service providers.

In the present petition, a legal practitioner sought exemption of lawyers and their staff from the restrictions of the lockdown for the purpose of Court work as well as for an order on the respondents to consider the advocates and legal service providers as belonging to the category of “essential services”.

Coordinate Bench Decision

Coordinate Bench on hearing petitioner’s concern, stated that inclusion of a particular category of persons within “essential services” is within the exclusive domain of the State Legislature and that no mandatory direction, much less any direction, can be issued to the State Legislature to categorize advocates and their staff as providing “essential services” and hence had rejected the same. However, liberty was granted to file representation before the State Government. Pursuant to the order, representation was filed before the State but no decision has been taken.

Concerns

Advocates and their staff are not presently being allowed to avail train services. Diasbled thereby, a major section of the advocates have been precluded from participating in whatever physical hearings that are being conducted and in assisting the Courts.

Hence, the bench asked the State to apply its mind and take an informed decision with regard to the concerns voiced by the advocates as well as their staff.

State must not be ignorant that access to justice is now recognised as a Fundamental Right and advocates and their staff constitute an integral part of the entire system, which is dedicated to “delivery of justice”.

Court asked the matter to be placed on 7-08-2020. [Chirag Chanani v. UOI, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 832 , decided on 31-07-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah, JJ has asked all States/UTs have to file affidavits on compliance of certain directions passed vide order dated 09.06.2020.

On 09.06.2020, the Court had directed all the States/Union Territories to take all necessary steps regarding identification of stranded migrant workers in their State which are willing to return to their native places and take steps for their return journey by train/bus. It has also issued other directions that included a direction to all States/UTs to make rules under the following 3 statutes:

  1. Inter­State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979;
  2. Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act , 1996 and;
  3. Unorganized workers’ Social Security Act, 2008.

The Court had directed that short term and long term measures be taken under the newly framed Rules and a report be submitted to it. The Court, however, noticed

“Although several States have made rules under the above enactments but all necessary details regarding the steps taken by concerned States have not been brought on record.”

It, hence, directed that affidavit be filed by all the States/UTs indicating the steps taken by them with respect to above mentioned enactments within a period of three months.

In order dated 09.06.2020, the Court had also asked the concerned States and Union Territories to maintain record of all such migrant workers, who have arrived at different places. None of the States/Union Territories have, however, filed any affidavit giving details of the compliance of the aforesaid direction. Asking the States and UTs to file affidavits regarding the same within a period of three weeks, the bench said,

“The States are required to bring on record the mode and manner in which records of migrant labourers who have reached their native places are being maintained with their skill, nature of employment and other details.”

The Court made clear that the affidavits to be filed by States/Union Territories, details with regard to compliance of other directions as issued by this Court on 09.06.2020 be also detailed.

On Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s  submissions on the issue of food security, health insurance for migrant labourers, presumption of work by migrant labourers and relaxation on insistence on registration, The Court said that it would consider the same after the necessary affidavits as indicated above are filed  by the States/Union Territories.

[IN RE: PROBLEMS AND MISERIES OF MIGRANT LABOURERS, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 613 , order dated 31.07.2020]


ALSO READ

Order dated 09.06.2020 on directions for transportation of migrant workers


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Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: P.S. Dinesh Kumar, J. ordered against the petitioner who filed the Writ of Mandamus against Canara Bank in deferment of payment of Letters of Credit issued by the Bank at petitioner’s request in the light of Pandemic situation prevailing due to the COVID-19.

Petitioner was in the business of import and export of gold and ornaments, and had been regularly obtaining Letters of Credit from Canara Bank for the last 20 years. His business had come to a ‘stand-still’ due to the lockdown imposed by the Government of India, and hence, petitioner approached the beneficiary of Letters of Credit (‘L/Cs’) and requested for deferment by 90 days which was granted. Canara Bank continued to make payment of the L/Cs despite informing them of getting the approval of beneficiary to not make payment.

The petitioner was represented by G.S. Kannur, Senior Advocate and the respondents were represented by K. Arun Kumar, Senior Advocate, R.V.S. Naik, Senior Advocate.

The petitioner’s case was, due to COVID pandemic, he was not in a position to export and earn foreign exchange. Canara Bank, in order to make payment would purchase foreign exchange at prevalent market price and this would cause loss to the petitioner.  The counsel for Reserve Bank of India, contended that due to their extended guidelines, Reserve Bank of India could not accede to petitioner’s request. Canara Bank’s counsel contended, due to the issuance of L/Cs in favour of petitioner’s own subsidiary Company called Valcambi SA.,(‘Valcambi’) and Valcambi has discounted the L/Cs from Canara Bank’s branches in London and Hongkong, therefore, petitioner was duty bound to honour its commitment and make payment.

The High Court dismissed the writ petition on two major grounds. Firstly, the Court found that Canara Bank had to continue with the payments of L/Cs on behalf of the petitioner as the bank was duty-bound to do so and since Canara Bank is fully bound by the RBI guidelines which permit only 90 days in respect of usance L/Cs issued for import of Gold. Secondly, the Court found that the petitioner had not made out a case that it had a legal right over the performance of a legal duty by the Canara Bank which is a necessary requirement for issuing a writ in the nature of Mandamus.

Therefore, the Court held that the petitioner was not entitled for a Writ of Mandamus and dismissed the petition.[Rajesh Export Ltd. v. Canara Bank, 2020 SCC OnLine Kar 923 , decided on 22-07-2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

The Delhi Government has issued a new circular dated 16.07.20 wherein they have shared  details regarding SMCs being reconstituted by a draw of lots. This circular has added information regarding tenure of such constituted SMCs, which was missing from the previous circular dated 01.07.20. The new circular states that these SMCs are being re-constituted only until elections can be held after the situation returns to normalcy. This signals a clear significant shift in the stance of Delhi Government in the aftermath of writ petition[1] filed in the Delhi High Court where in the Delhi Government had submitted that the SMCs being constituted by a draw of lots was only a stopgap arrangement

In the abovementioned petition, the petitioners had challenged the circular dated 1.07.2020[2] and prayed that the circular be quashed. The petitioners argued that the circular violated the spirit of the act as it didn’t allow parents to participate in the process of choosing who will represent them in SMCs. They contended  that extending tenure of the previous SMCs was a better option than reconstituting SMCs through a draw of lots. They gave examples of other states where tenure of SMCs were extended. The counsel for the petitioner, Garima Sharma, argued that it was a better option since members of existing SMCs already had experience of working in a SMC.

Despite the fact that the Delhi Government has been holding elections since RTE was implemented, the respondents submitted that there was no mandate to hold elections and that the Government had issued the impugned circular only as a stopgap arrangement.

The order released by the Delhi High Court on 14.07.20 has recorded the Delhi Government submitting in court  that the impugned circular has been issued “only as a stopgap arrangement and the SMCs so constituted by following the procedure as laid down in the impugned Circular shall continue till elections can be held after normalcy returns.” A fact that didn’t find any mention in the impugned circular dated 01.07.20.

The circular calls upon the head of schools to complete the reconstitution process of the SMCs through a draw of lots by the 21st of July, 2020.


[1] Indra v. Government of NCT of Delhi, Writ Petition (C) No. 4076 of 2020, dated 13-07-2020

[2]  http://www.edudel.nic.in/upload/upload_2017_18/117_129_dt_01072020.PDF

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Chief Justice, High Court, Calcutta has extended the period of suspension of judicial and administrative works of High Court, Calcutta till 19th July, 2020 on account of new phase of lockdown in Kolkata and constant increase in the containment zones and rapid increase of COVID-19 patients in the city of Kolkata and its suburbs.

NOTIFICATION


Calcutta High Court

[Notification dt. 13-07-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: Naveen Chawla, J. in an order dated 13th July, 2020 has refused to interdict a Delhi government circular which directed reconstitution of School Management Committees through a draw of lots instead of holding elections.The petitioners had challenged the circular dated 1.07.2020 and prayed that the circular be squashed. The petitioners argued that extending tenure of the previous SMCs was a better option than reconstituting SMCs through a draw of lots. They gave examples of other states where tenure of SMCs were extended. The counsel for the petitioner argued that it was a better option since members of existing SMCs already had experience of working.

Despite the fact that the Delhi Government has been holding elections since RTE was implemented, the respondents submitted that there was no mandate to hold elections and that the Government had issued the impugned circular only as a stopgap arrangement. The Circular shall continue till elections can be held after normalcy returns. The Counsel for the respondent government also mentioned that the petitioners had concealed that they have applied under the circular. The petitioners submitted that it was a bonafide mistake.

After listening to arguments from both sides, the Court stated that since elections cannot be held because of COVID 19, such extraordinary situations would require certain extraordinary measures to be taken by the respondents. The Court noted that respondents seem to have chosen one of the various alternatives that were available. With online classes for the Government schools having started there is an urgent need for the constitution of the SMCs.  The Court did not deem it fit to interdict the process started by the respondents at the present stage.and listed the matter for October 21st.

The order has recorded the government submitting in court that the impugned circular has been issued “only as a stopgap arrangement and the SMCs so constituted by following the procedure as laid down in the impugned Circular shall continue till elections can be held after normalcy returns.” A fact that didn’t find any mention in the impugned circular dated 01.07.20.

[Indra v. Government of NCT of Delhi, Writ Petition (C) No. 4076 of 2020, order dated 13-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Ujjal Bhuyan and Riyaz I. Chagla, JJ., rejected the relief of payment of full wages to the petitioner employees union holding that there case is not covered by the March 29th Order of the Central Government directing all establishments to pay full wages to employees during the period of lockdown due to COVID-19.

Premier Union Employees had approached the Court seeking direction to the State of Maharashtra and Commissioner of labour to ensure that workers of Premier Limited are pid wages for the duration of the lockdown in terms of Ministry of Home Affairs order dated 29th March, 2020, order of Department of Industries, Energy and Labour, Government of Maharashtra dated 31.03.2020; and order dated 20.03.2020 passed by the Industrial Court, Maharashtra at Pune.

Appropriate proceedings to be initiated against Premier Limited under Disaster Management Act for failure to comply with government orders.

On the other hand, Premier Limited assails the legality and correctness of the Order passed by the Industrial Court.

Union has raised grievance of unfair labour practice against the company. Complaint pertaining to the said grievance was registered at the Industrial Court.

Company obtained No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the office of Commissioner of Labour for shifting its plant, NOC was conditional in as much as the company had to give an undertaking that it would make full payment of wages and dues to the workmen and ensure continuity of their employment.

However, the company defaulted and has not paid wages and dues to the workmen since May, 2019.

Thus, Union in view of the above filed a petition before the Court seeking a direction to the State and Commissioner of Labour for cancellation of the NOC, both the matters are pending with no orders passed thereon.

On 3rd March, 2020, company had issued a notice addressed to all the workmen and staff stating that the management had decided to suspend operations with immediate effect. In response to this notice, Union raised the grievance of unfair labour practice and filed a complaint.

Industrial Court directed the company to pay wages to the workmen w.e.f. 01.03.2020 on or before the tenth day of each month.

Despite the above order, no payment has been made to the workmen.

Ministry of Home Affairs order dated 29-03-2020:

“all the employers, be it in industry or in shops and commercial establishments, shall make payment of wages to their workers at their workplaces and on the due date without any deduction for the period their establishments are under closure during the lockdown.”

Government of Maharashtra in the Industries, Energy and Labour Department issued a government resolution dated 31.03.2020 declaring that all the workers / employees including contractual, temporary and daily wagers working in private establishments, shops (except essential services), factories etc., who had to remain indoors due to outbreak of COVID-19 and the lockdown, shall be deemed to be on duty and shall be paid full salary / wages and allowances.

On 2nd June, 2020, this Court had directed the company to comply with the Order of the Industrial Court, to which company filed a petition with regard to the legality and validity of the Industrial Court’s Order.

Company alleged that the union had adopted an obstructionist approach leading to the company losing many precious orders thereby causing substantial loss. This prevented payment of salary / wages to the employees and workers on regular basis post May, 2019.

Due to the stated circumstances, company had to suspend all its operations.

Analysis & Decision

A conjoint reading of the central government order and the Maharashtra government resolution would go to show that those have been issued to meet the situation arising out of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Question to be addressed is:

Could the central government order and the Maharashtra government resolution be invoked in a situation where the management and workmen are engaged in an industrial adjudication relating to non-payment of salary / wages and suspension of work much prior to closure of the establishments due to the lockdown?

Or where the related cause of action arose prior to the lockdown?

In Court’s opinion, the claim of the workmen to wages will not be covered by the central government order and the Maharashtra government resolution.

Adding the reasoning to its’ conclusion, bench stated that measures introduced by the above two would cover a situation where an employee / worker was in employment as on the day the lockdown was declared and had received salary / wages for the previous month i.e., the month immediately preceding the lockdown.

The said  measure was introduced to ensure maintenance of status quo with regard to payment of salary / wages and employment.

Industrial Court’s Order

Industrial Court noted that a prima facie case for interim relief was made out by the union. It was further observed that if the management was not directed to pay wages, members of the union would suffer hardship and inconvenience.

Since according to the Industrial Court, complainant had made out a strong prima facie case, interim direction was issued to the management to pay wages to the workmen from 01.03.2020 onwards till final disposal of the complaint.

In Courts opinion, the above view of Industrial Court was found to be contradictory and therefore, High Court held that, in the interest of justice it would be just and proper if a direction is issued to the management to pay 50% of the full monthly wages to the workmen with effect from 01-03-2020 till disposal of Complaint (ULP) No.32 of 2020.

Industrial Court is directed to complete the adjudication process within a period of six months.

In the above view, petitions were been disposed off. [Premier Employees Union v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 794 , decided on 13-07-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: Jayant Nath, J., while hearing a matter with regard to parents defaulting in payment of tuition fees to schools, held that Schools can decline to provide Online Education facility to the students whose parents fail to explain the reason for the default.

Petition filed sought an appropriate writ to quash the Circular dated 18th April, 2020 and to allow the School to charge the actual expenditure incurred during the lockdown period in the form of fees from the students.

Petitioner submits that the Circular is ultra-vires the Delhi School Education Act.

Contentions

Petitioner’s counsel pointed out from the Circular that no fee except tuition fee would be charged during the lockdown period, another thing that was extracted from the Circular was that in no case, the ID and password shall be denied to getting online access of educational facilities to those students who were unable to pay school fee due to financial crisis.

Due to the above-stated clauses, 40 % of the students defaulted in paying fees which resulted in struggle to pay salaries of the staff and teachers.

Standing Counsel for GNCTD submitted that petitioner was free to take steps including issuing of notice to the parents who defaulted in paying tuition fees.

Decision

Bench held that in view of the above circumstances, if the parents defaulted in payment of tuition fees for more than 2 months, petitioner is free to issue appropriate notice to explain the reason of such default and in case they fail to do so, the petitioner is free to so communicate the same to the parents and decline to provide them ID and Password for online education facility for the students. 

Matter to be listed on 5-08-2020.[Queen Mary School Northend v. Director of Education, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 736 , decided on 08-07-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah, JJ pulled up State of Maharashtra for submitting that it did not do the needful for arranging transportation of migrants who were still stranded in the State as it was not informed of the materials.

“The present is not an adversarial litigation and it is the duty of the State to find out shortcomings and lapses wherever found and to do the needful. The State cannot claim that unless the State is informed of the materials, it cannot reply or act.”

The Court was hearing the interim applications filed by Sarva Hara Jan Andolan and Delhi Sharmik Sangathan on 07.07.2020 where details with regard to the State of Maharashtra, migrants who are still awaiting to return and other difficulties faced in the State of Maharashtra were narrated.

The Court asked the State of Maharashtra to file affidavit by July 17, 2020 and give other details with regard to migrants who are still awaiting to return to their home town in the State of Maharashtra.

Earlier, on 09.06.2020, the bench had  directed all the States/Union Territories to take all necessary steps regarding identification of stranded migrant workers in their State which are willing to return to their native places and take steps for their return journey by train/bus which process may be completed within a period of 15 days.

The Court noticed that lapses and short-comings in implementing the schemes and policies have been highlighted by various intervenors in their applications and affidavits.

“The responsibility of the States/Union Territories is not only to referring their policy, measures contemplated, funds allocated but there has to be strict vigilance and supervision as to whether those measures, schemes, benefits reaches to those to whom they are meant.”

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 certain interim directions on May 28, 2020.

[IN RE : PROBLEMS AND MISERIES OF MIGRANT LABOURERS, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 563 , order dated 09.07.2020]


Also read

COVID-19| Transportation of stranded migrant workers must be completed in next 15 days

Op EdsOP. ED.

Background

In what may be diligently called as a political coup d’état , the Kamal Nath Government in the State of Madhya Pradesh was toppled in the early weeks of March, even before his Government could present the financial budget for the State. As a result of this political fiasco, he was replaced by Mr Shivraj Singh Chauhan of the Bhartiya Janta Party, who took the oath of Chief Ministership on 23rd March, 2020. He became the new Chief Minister of the State, overnight with no Council of Ministers in his cabinet. Unfortunately, in a few days of his becoming the Chief Minister, the nationwide lockdown was imposed and coronavirus cases in the State mushrooming incessantly, leading to the termination of the budget session of the legislative assembly. As a result, the State of Madhya Pradesh had no Council of Ministers and no yearly budget to manage the pandemic and its economic effects. This whole event in Madhya Pradesh unleashed new avenues of legal jurisprudence in the country.

To manage the financial affairs of the State and with no legislative session in place to pass the Finance Bill, the Government of Madhya Pradesh took an interesting route and the Governor under Article 213 promulgated two Ordinances, namely, the Madhya Pradesh Finance Ordinance, 2020 and the Madhya Pradesh (Vote on Account) Ordinance, 2020 on the aid and advice of the Chief Minister[1]. These two Ordinances currently work as the Finance Bill for the State.

Satisfaction of the Governor

It is trite that, under Article 213 of the Indian Constitution[2] when the Governor is satisfied that such circumstances exist which renders him to take immediate action in the absence of legislative assembly in session, he on aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister can promulgate an Ordinance.

In  Samsher Singh v. State of Punjab[3], the Supreme Court affirmed that wherever for the exercise of any power or function, the Constitution calls for the satisfaction of the President or the Governor, as the case may be, the satisfaction required by the Constitution is not the personal satisfaction of the Governor but is the satisfaction of the Council of Ministers on whose aid and advice the Governor  exercises all his powers and functions.

Therefore when the Governor is under Article 213 promulgating an Ordinance, his satisfaction that necessary circumstances exist, must be based on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister of the State under Article 163 of the Constitution.

Article 213 of the Constitution, is drafted in a manner that there is no defined contour to the nature of Ordinance that can be promulgated and therefore, if extraordinary circumstances demand even a Finance Bill, it can be enacted in the form of an Ordinance, thus promulgation of the Finance Bill in a way of the Ordinance in the unprecedented times of COVID-19 can be justified.

However, the major legal question that arises out of this event is, can the Governor act solely on the aid and advice of the Chief Minister with no Council of Ministers in the Government? Or in other words, can the cabinet of ministers having only the Chief Minister be called as the Council of Ministers, who can advise the Governor to promulgate any Ordinance?

Analysis

According to Article 163(1)[4], there shall be a ‘Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head to aid and advice the Governor in the exercise of his functions, except insofar as he is by or under this Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion. Additionally, Article 164(1-A)[5] states that the total number of Ministers including the Chief Minister in the Council of Ministers in a  State shall not be less than twelve.

Article 163 is written in an extremely unambiguous manner, and therefore by the literal rule of interpretation, it is axiomatic that the Chief Minister is only a part of the Council of Ministers and functions as a link between the Cabinet and the Governor of the State. This view can also be interpreted from the judgement of Nabam Rebia & Bamang Felix v. Dy. Speaker, Arunachal Pradesh[6] Legislative Assembly, where the Supreme Court commented that the “Ordinance shall only be issued by the Governor, on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister as the head”. With the Court emphasising on the role of the Council of Ministers itself implies that mere advice of the Chief Minister will not suffice and there must be a full-fledged cabinet to deliberate on the inevitability of the Ordinance and then send it to the Governor for his/her approval.

In another judgment of Pancham Chand v. State of H.P.[7], the Supreme Court went a mile ahead to comment that “…the Constitution does not envisage functioning of the Government through the Chief Minister alone, it speaks of a Council of Ministers…”. This is again suggestive of the fact that the Chief Minister with no cabinet in place, cannot go to an extent to advise the Governor to issue an Ordinance.

Even if for the sake of argument only, it is assumed that the Chief Minister can act on behalf of the Council of Ministers to advise the Governor and the above stated arguments are rejected. This will lead to a nonplussed situation where, the Ordinance is passed only on the advice of the Chief Minister with no recommendation being sought from the minister concerned, even in his presence. This can create dissatisfaction in the government motivating the  minister concerned to even disagree to implement the Ordinance, especially when the coalition government is running the State. Hence, the constitutional provisions themselves does not make it valid for such Ordinances to be passed merely on the advice of the Chief Minister irrespective of the presence or absence of the Council of Ministers.

Conclusion

Conclusively, when Article 213 of the Constitution empowers the Governor to promulgate an Ordinance, based on his satisfaction which will be founded on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister will also have a limited role to play and even in compelling situations he/she cannot go ahead to act on behalf of the Council of Ministers and advice the Governor to enact the Ordinance. The presence of the Council of Ministers is not only compulsory but a constitutional obligation.

Thus, in the present factual matrix where the Ordinance is enacted by the Governor on sole advice of the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh can be legally held void because of the violation of the fundamental principle of Articles 213 and  163 of the Constitution. However, if the Supreme Court or the High Court, where the validity of this Ordinance is challenged takes a contrary stance justifying the Ordinance in light of COVID-19 pandemic, and affirms the discretionary power of the Governor to issue an Ordinance under Article 163(2) read with Article 213, it will be a very wide interpretation of the provisions and to an extent an unreasonable interpretation of the otherwise unequivocal language of the provisions and will set, in the authors’ humble opinion, a bad precedent where even something as vital and elementary as the Finance Budget will be re-routed by way of an Ordinance without consummating the fundamental obligation under the  Constitution.


*Third & Second Year students respectively, Institute of Law Nirma University, Ahmedabad

[1] The Times of India, Sibal, Tankha object to financial Ordinances, urge Prez to withdraw, (April 21, 2020, 04:37 IST) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/sibal-tankha-object-to-financial-ordinances-urge-prez-to-withdraw/articleshow/75259418.cms.

[2] Article 213.

[3] Samsher Singh v. State of Punjab, (1974) 2 SCC 831.

[4] Article 163(1)

[5] Article 164(1-A)

[6] Nabam Rebia & Bamang Felix v. Dy. Speaker, Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly, (2016) 8 SCC 1.

[7] Pancham Chand v. State of H.P., (2008) 7 SCC 117 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: A Division Bench of S. Manikumar ,CJ and Shaji P. Chaly, J. dismissed a writ petition on account of maintenance expenditure incurred by school even during lockdown.

The petitioners in the present case are students of Sree Buddha Central School who filed the instant petition seeking to direct the State Government to issue directions to the School for providing quality online/virtual class using modern video conferencing techniques along with charging only monthly tuition fees and to ensure that no student is denied the same on the reason of failure to pay fees.

The counsel of the petitioners Manu Ramchandran and Sameer M. Nair submitted while referring to Rule 29 of the Kerala Education Rules, 1959 that respondent school is a recognized school and, therefore, cannot charge fees more than the prescribed as schools can only charge fees to the extent of the expenses for running it and the levy of fees is to be without any profit motive.  He further submitted that during the lockdown from March to May, 2020, schools were closed and online classes commenced only from June 2020. Students have been asked to pay tuition fees for the above said period also wherein such digital classes were in the form of poor quality education as it was given through voice notes on whatsapp instead of proper and quality based online classes.

The counsels for the respondents were Surin George IPE, S. Nirmal, R.T. Pradeep, M. Bindudas and K.C. Harish. It was submitted by the respondent school that the school is only levying the fees charged on the former year without enhancing a single pie. It was further submitted that teaching, non teaching staff and IT professionals who were engaged in training teachers about online classes have to be paid their monthly salary, no matter whether there was lock down or not.

The Court, on hearing both sides observed that no separate annual fee was demanded by the respondent school whereas the fees charged for the previous year and the current year is same and there is no change in the same. Hence, the Court further accepting the argument that monthly salaries for the teaching and non-teaching staff has to be paid, found no irregularity or illegality in the actions of the respondents.

In view of the above facts and arguments, the petition was dismissed. [Sreelekshmi S. v. State of Kerala, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 2494 , decided on 30-06-2020]

COVID 19OP. ED.

Abstract

India has always followed the path of patriarchal society. This age-long tradition has never died due to the circumstances and upbringing of youth in such an environment which glorifies it. Gender inequality is an extensive issue in communities taking forms of violence against women, and particularly domestic violence, which then forms a vicious cycle that always keeps women subordinated, disempowered and unequal. This gender parity needs to be looked after. In the recent times of the COVID-19 pandemic where economic, social, political, personal, professional positions are at stake and facing huge repercussions. The most hardly hit area is the women community. The crime of domestic abuse suddenly ramped up after the announcement of lockdown not only in India but all over the world. The pandemic has ended up leaving the domestic violence victims helpless and nowhere to go for the enforcement of their rights. Amidst this corona pandemic, a hidden pandemic is emerging out i.e. domestic violence which will not end unlike the lockdown will one day. This paper will go in deep lengths analysing the domestic violence in the pandemic, reasons of surge in cases, measures taken and provisions in the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005[1]. There is an urgent need for this issue not to get ignored this time. We (the government, the society, the individuals) should not wait for such pandemics to erase out one of the gravest menaces in our society. 

Introduction

Liberty, equality, fraternity were the ideals on which the French revolution was based, led by Robespierre, resulted in the establishment of people’s rule commonly known as democracy. Our Constitution upholds these ideals by accommodating them as a fundamental right of every individual. In the past 70 years, the State has successfully ensured the political equality to its citizens but social and economic equality are still a far-reaching dream to ordinary women and especially to women. In the words of the former Chief Justice of India R.C. Lahoti, women, children, tribal and minority communities, victims of militancy, crime, disaster, drought-hit farmers, and sex workers needed urgent attention.[2] “Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women…”[3] The concept of domestic violence is not a new phenomenon nor are its consequences as it is a long-aged menace still existing in our society. The violence perpetrated on women is not only a social issue but also a health, economic, developmental, educational and above all a human rights issue. It is one of the most pervasive of human rights violations globally. The family is often equated with sanctuary – a place where individuals seek love, safety, security, and shelter[4] but research shows evidently that it has also become the place where lives are put in peril and breeds drastic violence against girls and women. In 1992, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee)[5] stated in Article 6 that gender based violence, violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately” and that is “is a form of discrimination that seriously inhibits women’s ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men” (Article 1)[6].  Certain variations in the existence of violence between and within the communities proves that it is not inevitable and can be rooted out by preventive measures.

Domestic Violence in Current Pandemic

“Confinement is a breeding ground for domestic abuse.”[7] As recently noted by the UN Secretary General, global lockdowns have resulted in a “horrifying surge” in gender-based violence (GBV)[8]. The whole world is witnessing a sharp rise in the violation of rights of women. Not only the developing countries like India became victim to this curse during the pandemic but also highly developed countries like UK, USA, Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong and many more countries succumbed to it. Imposition of nationwide lockdown has deteriorated the situation in India. India’s National Commission for Women (NCW) said it registered 587 domestic violence complaints between March 23 and April 16 – a significant surge from 396 complaints received in the previous 25 days between February 27 and March 22[9]. It is most likely that the number of domestic violence is much more higher than the real figure as one more factor exists which is liable for exaggerating this problem is that the victim locked in with the abusers might not get access to a mobile phone and time to call for help. Most of the avenues which help them to fight these situations are impaired. And to worsen the situation, opening of liquor shops post lockdown, added fuel to the fire.

Causes of Surge in Cases in Pandemic

There is no single factor responsible for the violence perpetrated against women. Several researches have indicated that there is an interconnectedness of various social, economic and cultural factors which accounts for this worst form of violence. According to Sociologist Marianne Hester, “domestic violence goes up whenever families spend more time together, such as the Christmas and summer vacations.”[10] The data shows that amidst this lockdown the complaints of domestic violence have nearly doubled evincing the idea of patriarchy being dominant till today. Stress, the disruption of social and protective networks, and decreased access to services is exacerbating the risk of violence for women.[11] Women’s unpaid care work has long been recognised as a driver of inequality. It has a direct link to wage inequality, lower income, poorer education outcomes, and physical and mental health stressors. The unpaid and invisible labour in this sector has been exacerbated exponentially by the COVID-19 pandemic[12].

Another important aspect responsible for this surge in domestic abuse is domestic labour. Gendered roles all over the world have placed domestic work on women’s shoulders, which is socially and culturally often demarcated as “women’s work”. During this pandemic the work load of women has increased due to all the members being at home. With housekeeping staff being unavailable, the expectation is for women to do all the tasks and that too with full efficiency and productivity, and chances of violence increase if she fails to do so. Economic factor has played a crucial role in surging this violence. A large chunk of women population is suffering from the economic dependence on the male counterpart. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, the national lockdown did not just throw 72 million people out of the labour force but it also drove another 85 million to some kind of desperation to look for jobs in the midst of a national lockdown when none were available[13]. This scenario suggests that people are highly vulnerable to a loss of livelihood. Men are not able to prove themselves at the economic front. They are workless doing absolutely nothing and the burden to make a living for the family with the inability to do it has led to frustration of which then women are the victim. The increasing financial burden and the needs of the family especially in poor strata of the society is making the situation worse. Such sorry state of affairs definitely comes under the umbrella of factors which perpetuate this violence.

Domestic violence is in the form of rapes and sexual harassment as well and COVID-19 time sets out the classic example of it. 2 crore babies are to be born in India till December 2020[14]. This is the highest number recorded so far. The question it raises now is that will all these babies be born with the consent of women. India has still not penalised marital rape. It may happen that women during the time of pandemic were subjected to force and since they are always considered to be subordinate and disempowered, they had to give in.

Government Measures

With cases of domestic violence swelling every day, the situation is becoming very grim. And it becomes the duty of the executive and the judiciary to implement the laws and take effective measure in cases of non-compliance. Recently, to tackle the situation better the Delhi High Court has directed the Delhi Government to mull over the appointments of protection officers. The National Commission for Women (NCW) also launched WhatsApp helpline numbers to protect them from harassment and in grave cases Crisis Intervention Centre (CIC) through counsellors accompany the aggrieved person and  make possible the recourse to public authorities. A laudable initiative by the UP Police has also been launched named as “Suppress Corona, not your voice” which encourages them to be vocal against the crime. The Tamil Nadu Government has also made a fruitful decision on protection officers. Clearly, the steps taken are appreciated but they are not sufficient to handle the emerging statistical numbers in cases of domestic violence.

Humane Framework: Necessary to Combat

As a responsible citizen of the country under Article 51-A of the Constitution, we have certain  fundamental duties to perform on our part of which one is  to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.”[15]  We need a comprehensive nationwide campaign to bring awareness among the people and make them sensitised towards this issue. These issues must be highlighted through various modes like, radio channels, national news channels. These platforms must be strategically used in the same way as the government has used for washing hands and social distancing to combat COVID-19. Efforts like in France and Spain, where pharmacies are being trained in a way to identify the victim of abuse through code words like “Mask-19” for the people who cannot speak openly on social platforms should be adopted. The non-profit organisations, civil society organisations are a key to unlock the unawareness in the society. A lot of these organisations enable shelter needs, counselling, legal aid, medical assistance and many more.

Provisions Of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005

The effectivity of the legal framework in India is at stake during COVID. We will analyse if the women are protected by the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

First and foremost, domestic violence leads to abuse of human rights and fundamental rights for example, right to live with dignity (Article 21), right to live in healthy environment and in good health (Article 21) granted by the Indian Constitution is violated. In Francis Coralie Mullin v. The Administration[16], the Supreme Court recognised the right to be free from physical violence. Moreover, in  Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation v. Nawab Khan Gulab Khan[17], right against emotional and sexual abuse was also protected by the Supreme Court. 

Coming to the Act, Section 11[18] of the Domestic Violence Act describes that the Government is obliged to raise awareness in the society by regular publicity of issues through the use of print and media which has not been adhered to. In addition to this, Sections 8[19] and 9[20] of the Act have not been implemented in its whole as only some of the States are considering doing this. What is even more problematic is the restricted access or recourse to the public authorities. Section 7[21] of the Act which provides for medical facilities is also not acted upon as the list of essential items lacks sanitary napkins which is a necessity.

The Way Forward

There is no doubt in the fact that the judiciary even in these tough times has imparted its services in a very hardworking way by establishing virtual courts and ensured justice to the victims. But still the efficacy of policies and redressal mechanisms needs re-assessment in one way or the other. Not only the physical but also the emotional and psychological health is at stake when an act of domestic violence takes place against her. So, we need to build a safe and secure place for the women by ensuring checks and balances. This menace can be banished completely by way of “community-based network” between the societies/communities and among people which will instil a sense of fear or shame before the commitment of such act by the abuser.

These crimes are committed not only against the women but also against the democracy, humanity, natural laws and most importantly our legal system.  The “Intimate Terrorism” needs to be curbed as soon as possible before the human rights issue especially (women’s right issue) become a joke for the abusers in the time to come. The Government along with the NGOs can protect the vulnerable section and help them to survive the pandemic by the setting up of emergency warning system so that women could reach out to the authorities without alerting the abusers. The issue of women’s sexual and reproductive health should be taken up as this is the need of the hour. It is high time that we, as responsible citizens of this country start taking this issue to as our priority. To sum this up, Swami Vivekanand truly said, “There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of woman is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on only one wing.”


*Students of Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala, Punjab

[1] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 

[2] Financial Express: http://www.financialexpress.com/news/legal-literacy- mission-launched/128689/ 

[3] The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, General Assembly Resolution, December 1993, Domestic Violence against Women and Girls, No. 6 – June 2000, Innocent Digest.

[4] Id.

[5] The CEDAW Committee is a body of 23 independent experts on women’s rights around the world; it monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979, http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/9Z9K6X50 which entered into force on 3 September, 1981. As of January 2014, 187 countries have ratified or acceded to the Convention. 

[6] UN, CEDAW Committee (1992), General Recommendation No. 19 on Violence Against Women, adopted at the 11th Session, 1992, A/47/38, 29 January, 1992.

[7] Abueish, Tamara (2020-04-06). “Coronavirus: A Jordanian woman pleads for help as domestic abuse cases rise globally”,  Al Arabiya English, Retrieved 2020-04-14.

[8] https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1061052

[9] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/locked-abusers-india-domestic-violence-surge-200415092014621.html

[10] https://www.epw.in/engage/article/covid-19-domestic-abuse-and-violence-where-do

[11] https://apps.who.int/iris/bitsream/handle/10665/331699/WHO-SRH-20.04-eng.pdf

[12] https://www.unwomen.org/-media/headquarters/attachments/sections/liabrary/publications/2020/policy-brief-the-impact-of-covid19-on-women-en.pdf?la=en&vs=1406

[13] https://www.businesstoday.in/current/economy-politics/india-unemployment-rate-falls-to-21-per-cent-lowest-during-coronavirus-lockdown   cmie/story/402240.html?utm_source=recengine&utm_medium=WEB&referral_sourceid=400902&referral_cat=Jobs

[14] https://new.rediff.com/commentary/2020/may/07/2-crore.indian-babies-will-be-corn-amid-covid/129996638a4372c1e9c79399a76

[15] Article 51-A of the Constitution. 

[16] Francis Coralie Mullin v. Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi, (1981) 1 SCC 608 .

[17] Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation v. Nawab Khan Gulab Khan, (1997) 11 SCC 121

[18] The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence act, 2005

[19] Ibid

[20] Id.

[21] Id.


Image Credits: The Week

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Kerala High Court:  Division Bench of S. Manikumar, CJ and Saji P. Chaly, J., while addressing a matter wherein plight of transgender community was placed, Court held that,

“…in order to translate the rights into a reality, and to avoid practical difficulties, Court is of the firm opinion that it is for the members of the community, or NGOs and others who are working with the transgender community to identify the problems faced by the members of the community and point out the same to the officers.”

Present Public Interest Litigation was filed by a transgender person.

Issues

Respondents have not undertaken to ensure the distribution of ration, medicines, access to medical treatment etc. to the transgender community in Kerala.

Transgender persons have been discriminated in the matter of relief measures during lockdown.

Petitioners’ case

Petitioner states that she was recognised a transgender person in the State of Kerala and it was issued an identity card by the Social Justice Department.

Petitioner has also sought benefits as laid down in the Supreme Court decision of National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 438,

all transgender persons have a right to self-determine their gender identity as male, female or transgender and non-recognition of their gender identity violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

Transgender policy was evolved for the transgender persons in Kerala during the year 2015.

Petitioner states that, apart from the above mentioned issues, transgender community is being subjected to threats with regard to eviction as they are unable to pay rent.

Authorities have not been extending any financial benefits to the transgender community.

Respondents Contentions

Director of Social Justice contended while refuting the claims of the petitioner that earnest efforts were being made by the State Government to provide the necessary facilities to the public at large including the transgender community.

So far as the general allegations with respect to the failure on the part of the Government to take necessary steps for supplying ration kits and other articles to the members of the community are concerned, it is stated that earnest efforts were made for the supply of the ration, ration kits and other articles, and also for providing shelter for those persons who were in crisis during the period of lock down.

Necessary medicines were provided to all transgender persons who had undergone hormone therapy and arrangements were made through the Transgender Justice Committee and other NGOs.

Civil Supplies Department had provided the facility for transgender community to mark their gender as ‘T’ in the ration card, so that they could also avail the facility to buy ration articles through their ration cards.

It is prominently submitted that the Social Justice Department, the State as well as the District Authority functioning for the transgender community have not received any complaint with respect to non-access to food supply, medicines and threat of eviction. 

Decision of the Bench

Petitioner has not specified ay of the instances whereby the ration articles, ration kit and the ration card was denied to the transgender persons on them approaching appropriate statutory authority.

Wirth regard to rights of the transgender community, Court stated that,

“…when the State Government has taken enough and more steps to provide various facilities and the authorities are appointed for addressing their issues, it is for members of that community or the NGOs or the members representing the transgender community to approach the said authorities and put forth the rights, they are entitled to.”

Court added to its observation that, identification of the transgender community is an issue involving privacy and therefore, unless and until such persons approach the authorities and their identity is so revealed and recognised, the authorities cannot take action for supplying medicines, ration, ration cards and identity cards and that too after thorough medical examination.

“…there are no reasons for denying any basic human right to a member of the transgender community.”

Yet, the Court issued the following directions:

  • Whenever any member of the transgender community approached the statutory authority concerned with medical prescription of the doctor, medicine should be supplied free of cost.
  • When any member of the transgender community approaches the District Authority or Nodal Officer appointed for the purpose of issuing gender identity card and the ration card, necessary steps shall be taken at the earliest to address the issues
  • Any other issues raised by the transgenders in writing shall also be addressed appropriately
  • 5 persons whose names have been mentioned in the statement filed, if approach the District Authority concerned, their issues should be addressed.

With the above observations, Court dismissed the petition.[Kabeer v. State of Kerala, WP(C) No. 9890 of 2020(S), decided on 08-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: While deciding the instant petitions seeking directions for the Kerala University to postpone the examinations scheduled on 1-7-2020, C.S. Dias, J.,  declined to pass an ad-interim order to stay the examinations whilst stating that scope of judicial review in the scheduling examinations is very limited.

The present petitions were filed by various students who contended that the University, regardless of UGC (Minimum Standards of instructions for the Grant of the Master’s Degree through Formal Education) Regulations, 2003, has notified the examinations. The students via their counsel George Poonthottam further argued that their study materials are left in their colleges and hostels, which have now been converted to quarantine centres; they cannot continue the research under their Guide, in view of the travel restrictions. Another petition filed by a sixth semester law student of Kerala Law Academy, submitted that a sudden call for examination would result in a large gathering of students in a single room, which will increase the chances of Covid-19 spread manifold. Furthermore the students, who have gone to their homes in other States and abroad, would have to undergo 14 days of compulsory quarantine, when they return to the State. Therefore, the call for the examination infracts the fundamental rights under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. However the standing counsel for the University, Thomas Abraham submitted that the University successfully conducted the examinations for undergraduate courses and that they received no adverse report on this. The students in fact responded positively to the arrangements made, particularly in view of the fact that they got accommodated to their nearby places to write the examinations. The counsel argued that a few students, forming a microscopic minority want to postpone the examinations indefinitely with an intention to thwart the examination schedule. It was argued that postponement of the examinations any further would result in a ‘situation with unimaginable ramifications’.      

Perusing the facts and contentions and referring to a plethora of Supreme Court decisions on the similar matters, the Bench observed that there should be extreme reluctance on the part of the Courts to interfere into the academic matters formulated by professional men possessing technical expertise and rich experience of actual day-to-day working of educational institutions. Referring to Maghi Devi v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 546 the Bench pointed out that the Courts should not substitute the wisdom of specialists in the field of academics. Noting that the Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, and it created situations that led to an All India Lockdown and closure of schools and colleges. The Court further observed that the Central and the State Governments have issued protocols to avert community transmission of the virus, and the same protocols are being implemented and followed strictly.

Thus declining to issue any stay order for cancellation, the Court clarified that if the exams are held as per the schedule and the petitioners appear and write the examinations, it would be without prejudice to their rights and contentions raised in the instant writ petitions. [Megha Sarkar v. State of Kerala, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 2492 , decided on 29-06-2020]