Delhi High Court has noted that the period of 14 days, as stipulated in the Home Quarantine Guidelines of March 14 and the COVID19 Regulations of 2020, are not mandatory, but is intended to serve a general guideline.
In order to balance the principles of personal liberty and public health, the Single Bench of Justice Hari Shankar further observed that if any person, who does not display COVID19 symptoms, and has not tested positive for the COVID19 virus, is home quarantined for over 14 days, he shall have a
right to represent to the authorities against such continued quarantine and, if he so represents, the authorities would be bound either to lift the quarantine forthwith, or to explain, to the person concerned, as expeditiously as possible and without any undue delay, the reason for keeping him in home quarantine for over 14 days.
'The COVID19 virus is, presently, not known to
subscribe to the dictates either of arithmetic or of logic', the Bench stated.
The present order has come in a PIL challenging the arbitrary and unreasonable calculation of the home quarantine period by the Delhi Government.
The Petitioner is one of the 72 people identified in the contact tracing conducted for a food delivery person who tested positive for COVID19 on 14.4.2020. He also admits that he had only one point of contact with the infected individual, i.e. at midnight on 24.03.2020/25.03.2020.
The Petitioner submitted that it has been over 30 days since the first and last point of contact, yet, the Petitioner remains in home quarantine, despite the stipulated time period of 14 days from contact having lapsed.
The Petitioner was further aggrieved by the fact that the authorities had arbitrarily put up two home quarantine notices at Petitioner's house, calculating the 14 days quarantine period from 15th and 17th April respectively, which the Petitioner argues is against both the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as well as the World Health Organisation.
Therefore, he wanted the court to quash the Warning Notice dated 20.04.2020 issued by
the District Magistrate (South), Govt. of NCT of Delhi as being violative of the principles of natural justice and the principle of audi alteram partem.
Further, he also wanted a direction to the Delhi Government to to appropriately amend the
format of its Home Quarantine Notice to reflect date of contact with infected person/ reason for quarantine, date and time of imposition of quarantine and date and time for end of quarantine.
Counter-Affidavit Filed by the Government
On 24th March, 2020, when the infected pizza delivery boy delivered pizza to the petitioner, the entire nation was under lockdown. It could not, therefore, be said that the Petitioner had been placed under home quarantine from the said date, at that time.
As such, there had been no infraction of the 14 day period stipulated for home quarantine in the applicable Guidelines. The fixation of the first sticker on 15th April, 2020, was intended to
create awareness for people, who had come in contact with the Petitioner to get themselves tested.
The actual home quarantine of the Petitioner, as effected, vide the second notice dated 17th
April, 2020, was in accordance with the prescribed guidelines, i.e. only for 14 days. The period of lockdown suffered by the Petitioner prior thereto was a nationwide lockdown not specifically imposed on the petitioner.
Observations of the Court
The court rejected the Petitioner's claim regarding violation of principles of natural justice by noting that the District Magistrate's notice, dated April 20, was merely a notice issued pursuant to complaints against the Petitioner, and directing him to desist from breaching the quarantine imposed on him.
It did not propose any action against the Petitioner, civil or criminal.
The court also did not find it appropriate to mention the date of contact with the infected person on the quarantine person. Finding the lack of any public interest and feasibility in such public disclosure of date of contact, the court noted that there are various grounds on which a person may be placed
under home quarantine, not all of which are necessarily relatable to her, or his, having come in contact with a person who tested positive for the COVID-2019 virus.
'However, all notices, placing persons under home quarantine, have necessarily to indicate the period of home quarantine, as well as the date from which it is to commence', the court highlighted.
On the issue of the quarantined person in need to get in touch with the authorities in case of an exigency, the court took into consideration the response submitted by the government which states that there's a helpline number which the quarantined person can dial during an exigency. The said number will also be displayed on the official website.
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