The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to direct the Centre to implement the Home Ministry order requiring landlords to abstain from compelling students and labourers to vacate the premises and from seeking rent for a month during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S. K. Kaul and B. R. Gavai dismissed the plea of advocate-petitioners Pawan Prakash Pathak and A. K. Pandey, stating that the apex court cannot enforce the orders of the government.
"These are difficult times and generalised petitions cannot be filed. Make a representation to the government if you are aggrieved", observed Justice Kaul.
The bench further noted that "There is a helpline set up by the Centre".
Finally, the court asked the Petitioners to withdraw their plea and approach the concerned authorities for relief.
The petition was filed to raise concerns over the persistent demand for rent by the landlords from their student/ labour class tenants, amid the lockdown.
The Petitioners pointed out that despite the advisory, various instances have been reported where landlords are forcing the above class citizens to vacate the premises or being threatened to be thrown out of their premises
"various State's in India are hub for students like Delhi, Mumbai, Kota City, Chennai and with mass population is constituted by students & labour's in these cities and they are comparatively lower on income scale as well and with extension of lock-down till 03rd May, 2020 the above class is facing issue of paying rental accommodation as the source of income during this period is Nil and savings with these families are minimal, where as for food they are dependent upon the services extended by the govt in there local area through fair price shops & other NGO Help."
The Petitioners further averred that many students live in Private PG across the city and for food they depend on the meals provided by the PG owners, and for that they pay a fixed amount per month which is in included in the rent. However, during the lockdown the PG owners are not providing food due to restrictions on movement but still PG owners are demanding the same rent which they usually charge when they provide the Meal to the students.
In this context the plea added,
"majority of the parents are self-employed and because this pandemic has also created a dent in their income they are forced to cope up by spending whatever minimum savings they have accumulated. There being high uncertainty as to when this lock down would end and normalcy would be restored so any demand for rent by the landlords would further aggravate the situation but also lead to undue harassment and embarrassment to the students."
In these circumstances, the Petitioners submitted, the students and the labour class are living in constant fear and depressions.
"suffering from financial crisis due to the lockdown, in such situation one is only left with one option i.e opportunity cost of money, either one can pay rent out of same amount or one can buy essential ration/food for family during this period," the plea remarked.
Thus asserting the enforcement of the Fundamental right to life of students and labours under Article 21 of the Constitution, the Petitioners have sought strict enforcement of the government advisory for restraining demand of rent from students and labours and further that quick response be taken on eviction reporting by tenants amid COVID 19.
The said advisory was issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affair last month under the Disaster Management Act 2005.