Case BriefsCOVID 19Foreign Courts

Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS): In a 5:4 decision, the majority  comprising of John G. Roberts Jr., Chief Justice, and Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elana Kagan, JJ., denied permission to Calvary Chappel, a Nevada church, to hold services on the same terms which were allowed by the State Directive to casinos and certain other facilities. However, strong dissent was registered by the remaining Judges on the Bench – Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch, JJ.
The application by the Church for injunction was denied by the Court in a single sentence:
“The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice Kagan and by her referred to the Court is denied.”
Alito, J. ( joined by Thomas and Kavanaugh, JJ. in his dissent) observed:

“Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion.”

Constitution says nothing about the freedom to play craps or black-jack, to feed tokens into a slot machine, or to engage in any other game of chance.

The dissenting Judges were of the view that:
The State of Nevada in view of the directive has discriminated in favor of the powerful gaming industry.

Attendance at Religious Services (the State Directive)

Governor of Nevada issued a directive that severely limits attendance at religious services. 

According to the directive, it has been stated that a church, synagogue or mosque regardless of its size may not admit more than 50 persons but casinos and certain other favored facilities may admit 50% of their maximum occupancy.


Calvary Chapel Dayton

The said church wished to host worship services for about 90 congregants with all the precautions being adhered to. But hosting the said worship service would violate the Directive 21 issued by Nevada Governor.

Meanwhile, the directive caps a variety of secular gatherings at 50% of their operating capacity, meaning that they are welcome to exceed, and in some cases far exceed, the 50-person limit imposed on places of worship.

Citing the heterogenous treatment, Calvary Chapel sought injunction allowing it to conduct services in accordance with its plan stating the adherence of all the measures required in view of COVID-19 Pandemic.

Disparate Treatment

Though the relief was denied, the dissenting Judges were of the view that at the outset of an emergency, it may be appropriate for Courts to tolerate very blunt rules that imposed unprecedented restrictions on personal liberty, including the free exercise of religion. That is what has happened thus far. But State certainly has not shown that church attendance under Calvary Chapel’s plan is riskier than what goes on in casinos.

Carte Blanche

A public health emergency does not give Governors and other public officials carte blanche to disregard the Constitution for as long as the medical problem persists.

The dissenting Judges noted that the problem is no longer one of exigency, but one of considered yet discriminatory treatment of places of worship.

While the directive’s treatment of casinos stands out, other facilities are also given more favorable treatment than houses of worship.

“…while Calvary Chapel cannot admit more than 50 congregants even if families sit six feet apart, spectators at a bowling tournament can sit together in groups of 50 provided that each group maintains social distancing from other groups.”

The directive blatantly discriminates against houses of worship and thus warrants strict scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause.

Observations of dissenting Judges:
Alito, J., who was joined by Thomas and Kavanaugh, JJ., placing a dissenting opinion, stated that preventing congregants from worshipping will cause irreparable harm, and the State has made no effort to show that Calvary Chapel’s plans would create a serious public health risk.

He suggested, the idea that “allowing Calvary Chapel to admit 90 worshippers presents a greater public health risk than allowing casinos to operate at 50% capacity is hard to swallow”: For casinos, operating at 50% is likely to mean thousands of people, standing close together and drinking alcohol, which requires them to take off their masks.

Gorsuch, J.,  dissenting from denial of application for injunctive relief, stated that,

“In Nevada, it seems, it is better to be in entertainment than religion.”

But the 1st Amendment prohibits such obvious discrimination against the exercise of religion.

“…there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel.”

Kavanaugh, J., adding to Alito, J.’s dissent, stated that Nevada’s discrimination against religious services violates the Constitution.

Risk of COVID–19 transmission is at least as high at restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms as it is at religious services. Indeed, people congregating in restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms often linger at least as long as they do at religious services. And given the safety measures that Calvary Chapel and other places of worship are following—including social distancing, mask wearing, and certain additional voluntary measures—it is evident that people interact with others at restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms at least as closely as they do at religious services.[Calvary Chapel Dayton Valey v. Steve Sisolak, Governor of Nevada, 591 US __ (2020), decided on 24-7-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

India’s response to COVID-19 has been pre-emptive, pro-active and graded. India had already put in place a comprehensive response system at its borders much before WHO declared it as a public health emergency of international concern (30th January).

Screening of incoming air passengers followed by suspension of visas and and ban on international flights was done much ahead of any other country.

Thermal screening of incoming international passengers from China and Hong Kong was started on 18th January, much before the first case of Coronavirus was detected in India on 30th January, 2020,.

A look at the global scenario would highlight that Italy and Spain, which are devastated by COVID-19, had started screening of travellers 25 days and 39 days respectively after first reported case.

Central Government took a number of proactive measures, such as travel restrictions, adding more countries and airports for screening, suspension of visas and self quarantine measures to effectively contain, prevent and manage the spread of the disease. A chronology of the decisions taken so far is as follows:

  • 17th jan- Advisory issued to avoid travel to china
  • 18th Jan – thermal screening of passengers from China and Hong Kong
  • 30th Jan – strong advisory issued to avoid travel to China.
  •  3rd Feb – E- visa facility suspended for Chinese citizens.
  • 22nd Feb -Advisory issued to avoid travel to Singapore; Universal screening for flights from Kathmandu, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia.
  • 26th Feb – Advisory issued to avoid travel to Iran, Italy and Republic of Korea. Passengers coming from these countries to be screened , and may be quarantined based on screening and risk assessment.
  • 3rd March: Suspension of all visas for Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and China; Compulsory health screening for passengers arriving directly or indirectly from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan.
  • 4th March: Universal screening of all International Flights. Quarantine or isolation at home or sent to hospital based on screening and risk profile
  • 5th March: Passengers from Italy or Republic of Korea need to get medical certificate before entry
  • 10th March, Home isolation: incoming international passengers should self-monitor health and follow govt. Dos and Don’ts: passengers with travel history to China, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Japan, Italy, Thailand, Singapore, Iran, Malaysia, France, Spain and Germany to undergo home quarantine for a period of 14 days from the date of their arrival
  • 11th March: Compulsory Quarantine- Incoming travellers (including Indians) arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after 15th February, 2020 shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.
  • 16, 17, 19 March– Comprehensive advisory:

16 March

Expanded compulsory quarantine for travellers from or through UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait for a minimum of 14 days.

Travel of passengers from member countries of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and United Kingdom to India totally prohibited

17 March

Travel of passengers from Afghanistan, Philippines, Malaysia  prohibited

19 March

All Incoming international flights suspended, with effect from 22nd March

  • 25th March: extension of suspension of all incoming International Flights to India extended till 14th April 2020

With evolving global spread of disease, not only travel advisories were revised, but airport screening was also expanded to all airports.

After being screened by health authorities at the airports, passengers were quarantined or sent to hospitals, based on risk assessment by health authorities. Details of even those who were cleared by health authorities were shared with the state government authorities so that they can be kept under the surveillance of their respective state/UT governments for the required number of days.

Screening of passengers took place at 30 airports, 12 major and 65 minor pots and at land borders. Over 36 lakh passengers have been screened.

The statement that ‘prosperous Indians’ were allowed to return without screening, is preposterous. The government took swift action to put in a place a comprehensive and robust system of screening, quarantine and surveillance are part of its robust response to the public health crisis right from the beginning. This covered every traveller, Indians returning after business, or tourism, students as well as foreigners.

State governments have been regularly requested to maintain and further improve upon this surveillance so that the coverage is complete and there are no gaps. A meticulous system has enabled states to track down individuals who tried to avoid surveillance or who did not follow quarantine measures.us

As many as 20 Video Conferences by Union Health Secretary with State Governments and 6 by the Cabinet Secretary with the State Chief Secretaries have been held to review the and step up the preparedness to deal with the Corona issue. Integrated disease surveillance system, which includes monitoring of international travellers, is one of the many issues discussed in these Video Conferences.


Ministry of Information & Broadcasting

Press Release dt. 28-03-2020

[Source: PIB]

Hot Off The PressNews

The second meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus 2019 in the People’s Republic of China, with exportations to other countries, took place on Thursday, 30 January 2020.

The Committee’s role is to give advice to the Director-General, who makes the final decision on the determination of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The Committee also provides public health advice or suggests formal Temporary Recommendations as appropriate.

Conclusion

The Committee welcomed the leadership and political commitment of the very highest levels of the Chinese government, their commitment to transparency, and the efforts made to investigate and contain the current outbreak. China quickly identified the virus and shared its sequence, so that other countries could diagnose it quickly and protect themselves, which has resulted in the rapid development of diagnostic tools.

The very strong measures the country has taken include daily contact with WHO and comprehensive multi-sectoral approaches to prevent further spread. It has also taken public health measures in other cities and provinces; is conducting studies on the severity and transmissibility of the virus, and sharing data and biological material. The country has also agreed to work with other countries that need their support. The measures China has taken are good not only for that country but also for the rest of the world.

The Committee believes that it is still possible to interrupt virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk. It is important to note that as the situation continues to evolve, so will the strategic goals and measures to prevent and reduce spread of the infection. The Committee agreed that the outbreak now meets the criteria for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and proposed the following advice to be issued as Temporary Recommendations.

The Committee emphasized that the declaration of a PHEIC should be seen in the spirit of support and appreciation for China, its people, and the actions China has taken on the frontlines of this outbreak, with transparency, and, it is to be hoped, with success. In line with the need for global solidarity, the Committee felt that a global coordinated effort is needed to enhance preparedness in other regions of the world that may need additional support for that.

Detailed statement can be accessed here: WHO Statement on Coronavirus


World Health Organization

[Statement dt. 30-01-2020]