In the backdrop on national lockdown imposed to curb the transmission of COVID-19 pandemic, a Public Interest Litigation petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking to direct the Central Government to declare 'Financial Emergency' under Article 360 of the Constitution.
The petition filed by think-tank Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC) states that the lockdown cannot be managed as per Section 144 CrPC or notification under Disaster Management Act 2005 or provisions of Epidemic Disease Act 1897.
"It is a global epidemic which should not be handled by district level geographical barriers and it must be fought by public and govt both in unified manner as per emergency provisions of Constitution of India", the plea stated.
The lawyers of the petitioner are trying to get an urgent hearing via video conferencing for the petition filed on Thursday evening.
The petition stated that this is the biggest emergency in independent India and it must be addressed as per Constitutional provisions through unified command between Central and State Governments. This will be required not only to defeat the war against coronavirus but also in recovery of the Indian Economy after Lockdown is over.
The petition further contended that even after the PM announced a country wise lockdown for 21 days for which orders were issued on 24.03.2020 by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the Disaster Management Act 2005, different States and police authorities are continuing to take their own action under the Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 in the guise of orders issued by the Central Government which amounts to "constitutional fraud".
Divergence of steps taken by different authorities are causing confusion and lawlessness in no way can be solution to a problem as grave as COVID-19. Due to the lockdown, the economic activities have come to a standstill as well for which financial package of Rs. 1.7 Lakh crore has been announced by the Finance Minister. For better utilization of this financial package, aFinancial Emergency has to be declared.
Petitioner prayed to SC to direct the Government to impose Financial Emergency in the country as per Article 360 of the Constitution of India. As an interim measure, the Petitioner prayed for-
i) necessary directions for suspension of collection of utility bills (Electricity, Water, Gas, Telephone, Internet) and EMIs payments liable to be paid during Lockdown period ;
ii) Direct the State police and local authorities to strictly comply with home ministry instructions so that essential services are not disrupted;
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