The Madras High Court on Wednesday issued notices on a plea seeking directions for medical testing of all persons who are exempted from the lockdown and are performing services that involve public contact.
The PIL filed by non for profit company India Awake for Transparency sought that the Union and state Health Ministries should work jointly to build a database of all such lock down exempted persons and should ensure 100% testing of the same.
Noting that the matter involves larger public interest, the bench of Justices N. Kirubakaran and R. Hemalatha issued notices, while suo moto impleading the Union of India as a party.
"As it is a public interest litigation, this Court would like to deal with issues arising out of COVID virus comprehensively and therefore, this Court suo motu impleads "Union of India represented by the Secretary to Government, Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi" as third respondent," the court directed.
During the course of hearing, the bench also addressed various other aspects related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taking cognizance against rampant violation of the lockdown, the bench ordered that the police may resort to arrest and seizure to ensure that people do not venture outside unnecessarily.
"…it is open to the Police Authorities to arrest as well as seize the two wheelers or the four wheelers which are used in violation of Section 144 order, if anybody comes out without reason beyond 1.00 P.M. The Police Authorities are directed to enquire/inform the employers of the violators (Government or Private employee) about the violation made by them."
Inter alia, the bench also made remarks over inadequacy of funds allotted to the state of Tamil Nadu to fight the deadly pandemic.
Pertinently, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has released a fund of ₹11,092 crore under the State Disaster Risk Management Fund (SDRMF) to all the States to take measures for containment of COVID-19 pandemic. Under the release, Tamil Nadu which as on date stands second in the number of reported cases in a state viz., 690 Covid positive patients, has been allocated ₹510 crore.
In this backdrop the bench remarked,
"However with regard to the release of Disaster Risk Management Fund, the Home Ministry has released only 510 crores which in the opinion of this Court is not adequate, whereas, the States which have got lesser number of virus infected patients have been alloted more fund. This Court is not against the allotment of more fund to the other States, but concerned about Tamil Nadu getting lesser amount of fund. Therefore, the Central Government may positively consider increasing the amount."
Further, the bench took note of certain migrant and daily wage protestors who had not been supplied essentials during the persisting crisis. The bench thus directed the state government to ensure that food and shelter is provided to all the concerned.
"…lakhs and lakhs of people are affected because of the lock down. The daily wagers, migrant workers and platform dwellers are without food and shelter. Though the Government is taking all efforts to provide food, it is reported in the media that in some places like Tirupur and Coimbatore, the migrant workers have staged a protest as they have not been given food and shelter. Therefore, the authorities are directed to verify the persons who are without food and shelter and provide them by having community kitchens," the bench directed.
Lastly, the court appealed to all the family members and friends of those who have tested Covid positive or those who have returned from abroad, to come forward and get themselves tested for the greater good of themselves as well as the society.
"Even though Tamil Nadu has got 690 COVID positive patients, it is stated that their family members and friends have not come forward to subject themselves for test as well as for quarantining. The pandemic spreads like a wild fire. It would not only affect the individual but also affect their family members, relatives, friends and even the whole of village or town. Further, many persons have come from foreign countries since the end of February and they have not voluntarily subjected themselves for testing and quarantining. Therefore, this Court appeals to the persons who have travelled abroad in the recent times, their family members and friends to subject themselves voluntarily for testing and quarantining, as the same would enable the pandemic to be controlled in the interest of the public," the court said.
Case Title: India Awake for Transparency v. Govt of Tamil Nadu & Ors.
Case No.: WP No. 7443/2020
Quorum: Justice N. Kirubakaran and Justice R. Hemalatha
Appearance: Advocate Subramani (for Petitioner); Additional Advocate General PH Arvind Pandian, assisted by Special Government Pleader AN Thambidurai and Government Advocate CV Sailendhran (for State); Senior Panel Counsel V Chandrasekaran (for Centre)
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