A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court comprising Justice Anu Sivaraman and Justice M.R. Anitha heard a writ petition challenging the decision of the Kerala Government to request a dilution in the institutional quarantine period. Kerala has seen the return of many people from foreign countries and other states. The petitioners were concerned by the State Government’s request for a change in protocol.
The grievances of the petitioners
The Kerala Government requested for a change in the protocol regarding institutional quarantine. They proposed to do away with the 14-day institutional quarantine period for pregnant women, senior citizens, infants and those with health issues and have a 7-day institutional quarantine period instead. The petitioners emphasized that there were cases of people showing symptoms of COVID-19 even 28 days after travel. They argued that the proposed protocol could cause potential public health hazards for the state at a later stage.
Justification by the State Government
The Additional Advocate General informed the court that the decision to request a change in protocol was taken after due consultation. He stated that the Kerala Government had consulted medical experts. It was only after this that the State Government had decided to request the Centre to allow an exemption considering the unique circumstances in the State. He made clear that the current protocol state was currently following the protocol prescribed by the Centre. The Additional Advocate General also stated that even with the proposed 7-day institutional quarantine, the existing measures to ensure that home quarantine was being followed would avert any possible consequence. He informed the court of the test that would be conducted after the proposed 7 day period and, that the exemption would only apply to pregnant women, infants, senior citizens and those with health issues who test negative.
The Central Government’s position
The Central Government Counsel argued that departure from the Standard Protocol was not warranted unless there were exceptional circumstances. He stated that the request for the change in the institutional quarantine period would have to be discussed by the ministry with medical experts before it could be put in place.
Court Directs Centre to decide on the protocol without delay
The Kerala High Court directed the Centre to consider the request of the Kerala Government. The court also emphasized the need for the special circumstances in Kerala to be taken into account while considering the request. The court directed the Centre to decide on the request at the earliest.
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