"Restricting movement of marginalised without accessibility to food, shelter & medicines violates Constitutional tenets"
A plea has been filed by Advocate Amit Sahni in the Supreme Court seeking directions to Central & State Governments across India in order to ensure that basic necessities are provided to marginalized sections. Further, the petitioner has sought waiver of GST, Custom duties & IGST on life saving necessities for treatment of Coronavirus for a temporary period amid the nationwide lockdown.
Bringing the plight of marginalized sections in India to the fore, the petitioner has averred that in view of the lockdown, a huge part of the country's population has been rendered destitute. Showcasing staggering numbers of people from the informal sector such as rickshaw-pullers, vendors & hawkers, the plea earmarks their predicament during the lockdown.
"There are 80 million homeless in the Country and over half a million are beggars. The Hunger in this segment of society is the biggest reason to worry at this emergent situation, which the Country is facing. Millions of daily wagers are compelled to leave for their homes out of compulsion because they are facing homelessness, destitution and starvation in
absence of Social Security. The Police may justify using force on such hapless persons but their plight is unnoticed" – the petitioner states.
In this backdrop, the petitioner raises questions of law that engulf the basic structure of Constitution of India such as, inter alia, whether "the Right to shelter is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(e) read with Article 21" and/or whether basic rights such as social security, shelter & food can be done away with during emergent situations.
"Whether the weaker section of the society like the poor and landless Labourers have the right to basic human and constitutional rights to shelter and if so, whether such right is taken away during emergent situation like present locked down in the Country?"—the petitioner contends.
Furthermore, the petitioner questions the legality of restrictions on movement of daily wage earners, beggars and homeless persons in light of inaccessibility of basic human necessities during the crisis.
"Because the action of the Respondents to restrict movement of Daily Wagers, Beggars and Homeless persons particularly in absence of Social Security in terms of Shelter or Food is in violation of their Right to Life" – the petitioner avers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a 21-day lockdown to contain the coronavirus spread. Reports claiming widespread exodus of migrant workers from cities in search of basic necessities have been consistently coming to light.