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'Sufficient Precautionary Measures Taken' : Kerala High Court Upholds Lakshadweep SOP With Relaxed Covid Guidelines

Lydia Suzanne Thomas
2 Jun 2021 7:25 AM GMT
Sufficient Precautionary Measures Taken : Kerala High Court Upholds Lakshadweep SOP With Relaxed Covid Guidelines
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The Kerala High Court has dismissed a writ appeal and a public interest litigation petition that questioned a Standard Operating Procedure by the Lakshadweep Administration that substituted the earlier mandatory institutional and home quarantine of all the persons travelling to the island, with just a negative test report of RT-PCR obtained 48 hours before travel. The two matters were...

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The Kerala High Court has dismissed a writ appeal and a public interest litigation petition that questioned a Standard Operating Procedure by the Lakshadweep Administration that substituted the earlier mandatory institutional and home quarantine of all the persons travelling to the island, with just a negative test report of RT-PCR obtained 48 hours before travel.

The two matters were disposed by a Division Bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly on May 28.l

The writ appeal was a challenge to a decision rendered by Justice PV Asha in January this year, where she ruled that the decision of the administration was a policy matter and directed a strict monitoring of the situation.

Later, a PIL was filed by another resident, challenging the relaxed SOP.

Pointing out that the number of Covid cases on the island had risen following the new Standard Operating Procedure, the petitioners had voiced concern over the limited medical facilities on the islands and the spread of new mutations of the virus.

The Court upheld the decision of the Single Bench and stated that its reasoning in the Public Interest Litigation would apply to the facts in the appeal as well.

In the order dismissing the PIL, the division bench observed :

"It is true, there was an initial SOP issued by the Lakshadweep Administration, in order to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19 Pandemic in the islands of Lakshadweep. However, the spread of pandemic was reduced and the Administration thought it fit to relax the entry into Lakshadweep Islands from the mainland with sufficient precautionary measures. It was accordingly, the notification prescribing the SOP impugned in the writ petition was issued. Reading of the notification/circulars issued by the Administration and the statement filed before this Court makes it clear that the Administration has taken effective precautionary measures for permitting people from the mainland to the islands of Lakshadweep. Reading of the notification and circulars further make it clear that sufficient precautionary measures are taken, in order to meet with any emergent and adverse situations. It is also clear from the notification that in order to rule out the possibility of any person infected with Corona-virus entering the Islands, RT-PCR test is being ensured,which according to the Administration, is a full-proof test, in order to identify as to whether any person is affected with the disease.

Since the statutory authorities are controlled and guided by the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and when notifications are issued prescribing the SOPs, it can only be legally presumed that the authorities have taken into account the situations prevailing in the mainland, as well as the islands of Lakshadweep, and unless and until the petitioner was able to establish before this Court that the SOPs, issued by the Lakshadweep Administration from time-to-time are illegal, arbitrary and so perverse, this Court would not be in a position to step-in and issue directions unmindful of the conditions contained in the SOP. The petitioner has not produced any document before this Court, to establish that the action of the Lakshadweep Administration, issuing fresh Standard Operating Procedures is in any manner illegal or arbitrary or overlooking the provisions of law in vogue, enabling this Court to interfere with the notifications issued. We are also of the view that the SOP is issued considering the advises rendered by the experts in the various fields and such aspects cannot be given a go-bye, by a writ court normally and ordinarily, which is a well accepted proposition in law".

Recording the same reasons stated in the PIL judgment, the division bench dismissed the writ appeal as well.

Click here to read/download the judgment in the PIL (Akbar M K v Union Territory of Lakshadweep and others)

Click here to read/download the judgment in the Writ Appeal (Shafeeque Rahman v Collector and Chairman, Disaster Management Authority, Lakshadweep and others)





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