COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Hardeep S Puri, MoS, (I/C), Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has announced the SOP guidelines for metro operations in a media interaction today. As per MHA order No 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) dated 29.8.2020, metro services will resume from 7th September, 2020 in a graded manner.  For this purpose, SOP guidelines have been prepared by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, which have been concurred by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Broad features of the same are as below:

a. Metro operations to be resumed in graded manner. Metros having more than one line should open different lines starting from 7th September, 2020 onwards in a graded manner so that all corridors become operational by 12th September 2020.  Daily hours of operations may be staggered initially, which needs to be increased gradually with resumption of full revenue service by 12th September, 2020. Frequency of trains to be regulated to avoid passenger crowding at stations and in trains.

b.​Stations/ entry-exit gates in containment zones to be closed.

c.​​In order to ensure social distancing, suitable markings at stations and inside trains to be done.

d.​Wearing of face mask to be mandatory for all passengers and staff. Metro rail corporations may make arrangements for supply of masks on payment basis to the persons arriving without mask.

e.​Only asymptomatic persons to be allowed to travel after thermal screening at entry into the stations.  Symptomatic persons should be advised to go to nearby COVID Care Centre/Hospital for testing/medical attention. Use of Aarogya Setu App to be encouraged.

f.​Provision of sanitizers to be made at entry into the stations for use by passengers. Sanitization of all areas having human interface viz. equipment, train, working area, lift, escalators, handrail, AFC gate, toilets etc. needs to be done at regular intervals.

g.​Use of Smart Card and cashless/online transactions to be encouraged. Tokens and paper slips/ticket to be used with proper sanitization.

h.​Adequate dwell time at stations to be provided to enable smooth boarding/deboarding ensuring social distancing. Metro rail corporations may also resort to skipping of stations to ensure proper social distancing.

i.​Passengers to be advised to travel with minimum luggage and avoid carrying metallic items for easy and quick scanning.

j.​Operation of Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) system as per the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) & Indian Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ISHRAE) guidelines. Intake of fresh air in air-conditioning system to be increased to the extent possible.

k.​Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign to be launched for passenger and staff through electronic/print/social media, poster, banner, hoarding, website etc.

l.​Metro rail corporations to keep close liaison with state police and local administration for regulating crowd outside station and to deal with contingencies.

Based on above guidelines, Delhi, Noida, Chennai, Kochi, Bangalore, Mumbai Line-1, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Maha Metro (Nagpur) Kolkata, Gujarat and UP Metro (Lucknow) have prepared their SOPs. Government of Maharashtra has decided not to resume operation of metro during September, 2020.  Hence, Mumbai Line-1 and Maha Metro operations shall commence from October, 2020 or as State Government may decide further.

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Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs

Press Release dt. 02-09-2020

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Amol Rattan, J., directed raids to be conducted at chemist shops and manufacturing units to collect samples of hand sanitisers/ hand disinfectants as well as face masks.

The direction for raid was given to check the exorbitant price of sanitisers and substandard quality of face masks.
Presently, the issue with regard to maintainability of FIR had been raised. State Counsel, Munish Bansal submitted that as per Section 10-A of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, it is very much maintainable.

The other essential question was whether, even if petitioner has a license to manufacture the hand sanitiser in question, could the maximum retail price as have been displayed to be above Rs 250 for 500 mls., against the Centre’s notification dated 21st March, 2020, wherein all hand sanitisers shall not be priced at more than Rs 100 per 200 mls.?

Another point raised was, if it is established that any of the products stated to have been seized/purchased by the Drugs Control Office, Hisar show a maximum retail price of more than Rs 500, the question that next arose was — would that also amount to cheating the public and therefore, would an offence punishable under the relevant provisions of IPC consequently be made out, or not?

Bench took suo motu notice of the fact that most companies manufacturing and selling hand sanitizers, even after March 21, 2020 have been showing the maximum retail price of such products to be far above Rs 250 for 200 mls. and consequently the Additional Chief Secretaries/ Principal Secretaries/Secretaries in the Departments of Health, and Food and Supplies, of the States of Haryana, Punjab and U.T. Chandigarh, are directed to have ‘raids’ conducted at chemist shops and manufacturing units, to obtain samples of hand sanitizers/hand disinfectants.

Wherever the  above stated products are manufactured after March 2020, showing a maximum retail price above Rs 250/- for 500 mls./more than Rs 100/- for 200 mls., proceedings as per law shall be initiated against all such manufacturers.

Court also noticed that a large number of brands of facial masks as have been purchased, are of highly sub-standard quality, where even while trying the masks, the strings attached break off immediately, thereby making the masks unusable.

Matter to be listed on 6th July, 2020. [Raman & Weil (P) Ltd. v. State of Haryana, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 787 , decided on 19-06-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of D.N. Patel, CJ and Prateek Jalan, J., addressed a petition wherein the issue was with regard to proper wearing and usage of masks during COVID-19 pandemic times.

Petitioner through the present petition sought direction to the respondents with regard to framing of rules and publication of instructions/guidelines/norms for the proper wearing or usage or handling of all kinds of masks in the present situation of COVID-19 Pandemic.

Respondents counsel, Naushad Ahmed Khan, ASC submitted that requisite guidelines with regard to “when and how to usemasks” have already been issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Pictorial representation of the “when and how to wear a mask” has also been issued and annexed with present petition.

Bench

On noting the fact that requisite guidelines have already been isuued by the Health Ministry on how to use and wear the masks, Court found no reason to issue further guidelines on the same subject.

Though. the above stated pictorial representation may be publicised on print as well as electronic media and also displayed on the websites of all municipal authorities as well as on Delhi cantonment Board’s website so that the public at large is completely aware on the use and purpose of masks during COVID-19 times.

With the above observations, petition was disposed of. [Pulkit Jain v. Government of NCT of Delhi, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 654 , decided on 17-06-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Madras High Court: A Division Bench of M. Sathyanarayanan and Dr Anita Sumanth, JJ. asked for a comprehensive report to be submitted since the accommodation and transportation of the migrant workers stranded in the State of Tamil Nadu is looming at large.

Counsel for the petitioner submitted that Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in the form of various administrative instructions have been issued with relating to migrant workers/Labourers.

It has been submitted that, some of the migrant workers do not have authenticated cards on the form of Aadhar Cards, etc. and NGOs are trying their level best to coordinate with Governmental Agencies for registration and transportation but still there are some problems thus the same needs to be addressed and emergent directions needs to be passed.

Government Pleader, V. Jayaprakash Narayan submitted that comprehensive guidelines have been placed based upon MHA Order wherein the following was stated:

Inter-State movement of migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and other persons stranded at different places due to lockdown and said Order mandated State Governments to designate Nodal officers to have coordination with respective State/UTs Governments to ensure orderly receiving and sending of stranded people between State of Tamil Nadu and other State/UTs as per SOPs issues.

Court while hearing the arguments placed a specific query with regard to identification of shelter homes/places wherein migrant workers were waiting for transportation to their Home States could be accommodated .

Court also took judicial notice of the fact that in arterial roads, migrant workers were exhibiting their anxiety to reach Railway Station and were not maintaining the social/physical distancing and do not possess sufficient protective masks and thus State’s immediate concern should be to accommodate them i shelter homes.

Assistant Solicitor General of India, G. Rajagopalan submitted that Ministry of Railways operated number of ‘Shramik’ Special Trains to transport migrant workers and though some of the States are not permitting the entry of migrant workers, State Government concerned needs to coordinate with the State Governments.

Court asked for a comprehensive Status Report to be filed with regard keeping in view the accommodation and transportation of migrant workers stranded in State of Tamil Nadu and the effective measures/workable solutions in terms of SOPs formulated.

The NGOs shall also coordinated with the migrant workers as their orderly behaviour and render necessary help to board trains. [S. Thilakraj v. Union of India, WP  No.7702 of 2020, decided on 19-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Orissa High Court: A Division Bench of S. Panda, ACJ and S.K. Sahoo J., directed the State Government to inform the Court regarding steps taken for effective prevention of the COVID-19.

The instant writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India in the nature of PIL was filed in which prayer has been made for a direction to the OPs to ban/cancel all the ships, airplanes and cargoes passing through affected areas of coronavirus (COVID-19) those are roaming nearby sea coasts in Odisha till health emergency in India is declared safe and to take preventive measures for reducing the infection of coronavirus and for proper medication, provide sanitation to the people and also to make awareness among the people about coronavirus, constitute Rapid Action Team to look and face the disease which is creating havoc and also to impose a ban on the celebration of any event by mass gathering. The petitioner produced a notification dated 13.03.2020 issued by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution in which in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (2) of Section 2A, of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, the Central Government in order to regulate the production, quality, distribution, logistics of masks and hand sanitizers (for COVID-19 management) has included the ‘masks’ and ‘hand sanitizers’ in the schedule of essential commodities. It was mentioned therein that the notification shall remain in force up to 30.06.2020. 

The Court stated that masks and hand sanitizers are sold at an exorbitant price and there is scarcity of such commodities in the market and asked the State Government to elaborate what steps have been taken to regulate the sale of such commodities in different parts of the State at a reasonable price and whether any notification in that respect has been issued. The Court also directed the State to inform the court regarding the tests being conducted for the detection of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the persons who are coming to the State of Odisha in the vessels, airplanes passing through the counties where there is a wide outbreak of such disease and also the cargoes carried in such vessels and airplanes and what measures have been taken by the State Government to prevent spreading of the disease.

The matter is next listed for 23-03-2020.[Bijaya Kumar Ragada v. State of Odisha, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 69, decided on 16-03-2020]

COVID 19Legislation UpdatesNotifications

In view the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 (Corona Virus) and concern of the logistics for COVID-19 management particularly during the last couple of weeks and that masks (2 ply & 3 ply surgical masks, N95 masks) and hand sanitizers have been noted to be either not available with most of the vendors in the market or are available with great difficulty at exorbitant prices, Government has notified an Order under the Essential Commodities Act to declare these items as Essential Commodities up to 30th June, 2020 by amending the Schedule of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.

It has also issued an advisory under the Legal Metrology Act. Under the E.C Act, after discussions with the manufacturers, States can ask them to enhance their production capacity of these items, to make the supply chain smooth, while under the L.M. Act the States can ensure sale of both the items at MRP.

            On these two items, the States may now notify the Central order in their official Gazette, also issue their own orders under the EC Act to that effect and take necessary actions as per the situation prevailing in the respective States.  Under the EC Act, powers of the Central Government have already been delegated to the States by way of orders during 1972 to 1978.  The States/UTs, therefore, may take action against the offenders under the EC Act and PBMMSEC Act. An offender under the EC Act may be punished with imprisonment up to 7 years or fine or both and under the PBMMSEC Act, he can be detained for a maximum of 6 months.

            The decision would empower the Government and States/UTs to regulate the production, quality, distribution, etc. of masks (2 ply & 3 ply surgical masks, N95 masks) and hand sanitizers and to smoothen the sale and availability of these items and carry out operations against orders speculators, etc. and those involved in overpricing, black marketing, etc. It will enhance the availability of both the items to the general people at reasonable prices or under MRP. The States are also advised to give publicity of State Helplines for registering complaints by the consumers of the above two items. The consumers may also register their complaints in this matter with the National Consumer Helpline No. 1800-11-4000, Online Complaints: www.consumerhelpline.gov.in, Department’s Website www.consumeraffairs.nic.in, dsadmin-ca@nic.in and dirwm-ca@nic.insecy.doca@gov.in.


Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution

[Press Release dt. 13-03-2020]

[Source: PIB]