The case concerns the practice of affixing posters outside the houses of Covid-19 patients and the righteousness of such practice.
Brief Facts of the Case
This writ petition had been filed under Article 32 of the Constitution as Public Interest Litigation. The relief sought through writ petition is quashing the decision to affix posters outside residences of Covid-19 positive persons under home isolation and put an end to this practice. Further, directions to be issued to officials and authorities to not disclose the names of Covid-19 positive persons to any person or resident welfare associations/neighborhood welfare groups/ apartment block groups, etc. During the pendency of the petition as well names of Covid-19 should not be circulated in any Whatsapp group.
The practice of affixing the posters amounts to a violation of the right to privacy guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution. The circulation of names in the public forums of Covid-19 positive persons and they are having to live in their homes affixed with posters are the most inhuman and indignifying experience. The dignity of the person lies in the ability to live with respect in society. However, by affixing the posters and circulating the manes, the life of an individual comes under public scrutiny which destroys the ethos of one’s dignity.
Covid-19 positive persons cannot be criticized for merely contracting an illness and their illness cannot be the ground for discrimination and differential treatment. Article 14 of the Constitution is based on this principle and the Constitution will never permit discrimination on the ground of illness and physical suffering.
Covid-19 is a distressing experience with its malefic effects, both physically and mentally, which is further aggravated by restrictions by the state in the form of isolation which leads to the curtailment of rights under Article 19. By affixing posters and circulating names, the state cannot be allowed to violate Article 21 as well.
This practice has no proof of serving any purpose and instead it turned out to be counterproductive. To avoid drawing attention in testing positive, the person began to deliberately avoid testing themselves to protect themselves from public embarrassment and stigmatization.
The Delhi High Court, in a similar case, held that posters should not be affixed and that are already in place should be removed.
It was submitted that guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for home isolation, nowhere mention about pasting of posters outside the residence of Covid-19 positive persons. Referring to guidelines dated 02.07.2020 on the subject.
Further, the Department of Family Welfare issued a letter to Additional Chief Secretaries/ Principal Secretaries/ Secretaries(Health) all States/UTs that Government of India guidelines does not contain any directions regarding affixing posters or other signage outside the residence of Covid-19 positive persons.
Observation of the Court
The guidelines dated 02.07.2020 issued by the Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare does not contain any guidelines regarding pasting of posters rather Ministry of Health and Family welfare issued a letter dated 19.11.2020, guidelines are reiterated as guidance for states and Union Territories following this practice.
The Union of India had neither issued such directions of pasting posters nor it is obligatory for the states or UTs to paste posters outside the residence of Covid-19 positive persons. The State of Punjab and NCT of Delhi issued directions to affix the posters but the said orders were withdrawn and now no posters are being pasted on the houses of Covid-19 positive persons.
The various submissions made by the petitioner need no consideration because the guidelines issued by the Health Ministry which are referable to the exercise of power by the authority under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, do not contain any requirement of pasting posters against houses of COVID-19 patients.
The State government and Union Territories can resort to the above exercises only when directions are issued by the competent authority under Disaster Management Act, 2005.
The Decision of the Court
The Writ Petition is disposed of.
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