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Addressing discrimination in the time of quarantine

If people with the disease fear discrimination, non-reporting would be the norm and we cannot keep people in their homes to flatten the curve forever.

Prof (Dr) Vijay Kumar Singh



discrimination in the time of quarantine
discrimination in the time of quarantine

Red, Orange and Green is just not associated with traffic signals now, but in Covid-19 times, it depicts the risk profiling of the 733 districts as hotspots (red), alert (orange), no cases (green) zones. This list is dynamic and would be reviewed weekly. Further, the district authorities would identify containment zones within these areas with greater restrictions.

All these notification related to “quarantine” are issued by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) under the Disaster Management Authority, Act 2005. The Union Home Secretary is the Chairperson of the National Executive Committee (NEC) and is the focal point to issue directions on quarantine to different stakeholders.

The first order of 21 days lockdown was issued on 24 March “to take effective measures to prevent spread of Covid-19 across the country and for maintenance of essential services and supplies including health infrastructure”. The first extension of lockdown until 3 May was declared on 14 April and now for another 14 days with some relaxation on the basis of risk profiles of the districts.

The aforesaid classification of districts has already been politically questioned by some states; however, it appears difficult to challenge that legally in a court of law due to the dynamic nature of the problem and broad parameters used in the classification of districts. Can a person challenge this on the grounds of Article 14–Equality before law? Probably not, as “reasonable classification” and “intelligible differentia” justification would step in.

Can a citizen challenge it under Article 19 as a violation of Right to Freedom? Seems difficult as “reasonable restrictions” justification will come as defence. A large population in India probably has, for the first time, experienced the true meaning of the “reasonable restrictions” and realised the potential of the statement, “Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India are not absolute”.

While the Constitutional courts in the country are available to hear cases on urgent matters of life and liberty, a greater leeway is available to the Executive as the Chief Justice of India (CJI) said, in an interview, “The three Ms–money, men and material–are with the Executive, which is the most suitable organ of governance to deal with the problems arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.” Does that mean the government does not have accountability, and it can get away with anything?

Very likely No, as the citizens are carefully observing, lauding, speaking, and critiquing the steps taken by the government and ultimately the days will return when the citizens will cast their votes. Popstar Madonna has called the coronavirus pandemic “a great equaliser” accentuating the virus does not discriminate between rich and poor, however, on the other hand, one can comprehend different facets of discrimination due to “quarantine rules”.

All these discriminations are not only due to the fear of infectiousness of the disease but rooted in traditional discernments and societal dynamics raising larger questions of law and policy. We have already seen a backlash against the Muslim community due to the Markaz incident in Nizamuddin and later due to non-cooperation by Tablighi Jamaat followers.

This has created a huge stigma in the minds of people, which will take some time to fade and may be in some cases will stay forever. Covid warriors like doctors and nurses were not being allowed to enter their homes by their neighbours and landlords due to fear of spread of Covid, the government had to intervene with directions against this discrimination and targeted attacks on healthcare service providers.

The ordinance of 22 April 2020, under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, made acts of violence against healthcare professionals during the epidemic cognisable and a non-bailable offence. Discrimination between the poor and the rich has come out in the wide open with the issues of migrant labour stuck in cities without work.

It has been difficult for the states to manage this unprecedented situation. It seems the provisions relating to “displacement allowance”, “journey allowance” and “other facilities” under the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979, has not helped these migrant workers. Probably, it has been lost somewhere in the myriad of laws we have in our country or majority of these migrant workers were without any formal engagement under this law.

One of the major problems which the migrant workers faced during quarantine was non-access of government resources in the absence of proper identity. The government has come up with One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) scheme, however, only 12 states have acceded to the same until January 2020. It requires more states to be on board and until then Supreme Court had asked the government to consider its temporary implementation.

Domestic violence and discrimination against women has popped up as a very serious concern. Everyone being locked up in their homes, women, in a majority of the cases, suffer greatly due to multiple reasons ranging from physical to emotional. UNFPA highlights women representing 70 percent of the health and social sector workforce globally. The unorganised labour sector has women who are sitting at home in a majority. Access/non-access to Technology leads to discriminations, between rural and urban India.

Despite large base of internet users of 560 million, the internet penetration rate is just 50 percent (Statista). This not only affects the men and women in rural India, but even children as they do not have access to online mechanism of learning compared to their urban counterparts. Demonetisation did provide a push for digitisation in India, however, it never became a “digital transformation” to handle this pandemic. The jandhan accounts did serve people in rural India with Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT). This pandemic rejuvenates the debate on having a single Social Security Number (Aadhaar) for every citizen of this country.

Balancing the privacy and social security/welfare concerns would be the next Constitutional challenges in courts along with the CAA, which is on the backburner right now. Coming back to the disease and quarantine, we all hope to come out of this situation soon. The issue is whether the postCovid society would be the same as it used to be before, or people would behave differently depending upon which zone one comes from.

Will there be a situation of discrimination on the basis of their place of residence in the containment zones? It took about 120 years to repeal the 1898 Lepers Act which was brought by the British to keep people suffering from leprosy/Hansen’s disease in quarantine far away from cities and towns, as a disease-control measure. The Law Commission of India in its 256th report recommended for repeal of Lepers Act for being in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution, owing to the forcible exclusion and segregation of persons affected by leprosy.

This discrimination and stigma go to the root of containing and tackling Covid-19. If people fear discrimination, non-reporting would be the norm and how long could we keep people in their homes to flatten the curve? The solution lies in greater awareness, alertness and cooperation by everyone. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War notes, “He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.” While we take on Covid, let the term COVIDiscrimination be buried, and equality prosper.

Dr. Vijay Kumar Singh is Dean, School of Law at UPES Dehradun. Views are personal.

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Legally Speaking




The Gauhati High Court in the case Jugitawali Pawe v State of Assam and 15 ors observed and quashed a resolution expressing no-confidence in the petitioner – the President of a Gram Panchayat, as a result of which she as removed from office. It was stated that it is as per the citing no compliance with Assam Panchayat Act, 1994, reading with Rule 62 of the Assam Panchayat (Constitution) Rules, 1995.

It was preferred by the petitioner to the materials available on record to argue that one of the members of the Gaon Panchayat, the respondent. The respondent voted against the petitioner and had given birth to her third child the previous year. Moreover, by virtue of Section 111(2)(a) of the Assam Panchayat Act, 1994, reading with Rule 62 of the Assam Panchayat (Constitution) Rules, 1995, the petitioner stood automatically disqualified on the date of voting. Following, which her vote was taken by passing No-confidence motion.

It was prayed by the petitioner in the plea for setting aside the impugned resolution and for issuance of a direction to restore his client back in the office. Thereafter, to initiate fresh proceedings, liberty should be granted to the respondent, following the due process.

It was agreed by the Counsel representing for the respondent that the said member of the panchayat had been disqualified but retained on the ground that the disqualification would have no bearing on the petitioner’s case, as the impugned resolution was passed before the declaration of petitioner disqualification.

In the present case, It was noticed by Justice Suman Shyam the member had voted against the petitioner and without her vote. The petitioner would not have been ousted from office. Justice Shyam also found no dispute about the fact that the member had incurred disqualification under the law prior the date of adoption of the impugned resolution. Justice Shyam found it unnecessary to delve into other aspects of the matter which includes the procedural formalities for declaring the member a disqualified candidate.

It is observed that the impugned resolution was declared to be vitiated and liable to be set aside. Further, the Court restored the petitioner to the office of the President of the Bongalmara Gaon Panchayat with immediate effect and it was stated by the court that the order will not stand in the way should the authorities or any member of the Gaon Panchayat propose a fresh motion of “no-confidence” against the petitioner and the due process of law needs to be followed.

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Legally Speaking

Halt DDA’s demolition action against jhuggis in Nizamuddin’s Gyaspur area, orders Delhi High Court

As per the JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015 and the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, the residents who can establish their residence prior to 01.01.2015 are eligible for rehabilitation under the JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015.



plea in Delhi High Court seeking repatriation of 56 pregnant nurses

The Delhi High Court in the case Manoj Gupta & Ors. v. DDA & Ors observed and has ordered status quo on the Delhi Development Authority’s proposal to demolish jhuggi clusters in city’s Gyaspur area in Hazrat Nizamuddin. The vacation bench comprising of Justice Neena Bansal Krishna observed in the petition filled by the residents and the court granted an interim relief.

It was ordered by the court status quo till July 11, the next date of hearing.

The bench orally remarked that a ten-day delay in demolition won’t make a difference but if today it is demolished and later, we come to know that they were entitled, who’s going to… the bench will consider it on July 11, 2022 but in the Meanwhile, some protections are entitled them. Adding this, Status quo be maintained. If since 1995, they have been there, heavens won’t come down if for 10 more days they are protected.

In the plea the petitioner stated that the T-Huts settlement in the area, which was stated by the authorities to vacate. It has been in existence for almost two decades and compromise of 32 jhuggis or households.

In the plea it was alleged that the bulldozers have been parked around the camp and a DDA official has orally asked them to vacate the area and it is noted that till date no proper notice have been sent to them nor has DDA conducted any survey of the area.

Furthermore, the DDA did not provide any alternate arrangement for their rehabilitation which resulted in extreme distress among the residents.

Moreover, it was admitted by the petitioner that the land in question belongs to DDA and they may seek that status-quo to be maintained at the site. It was urged that the residents should not be physically dispose or evicted from the demolition site until the survey is conducted and rehabilitation is provided to the residents as per the DUSIB policy of 2015.

As per the JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015 and the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board. The residents who can establish their residence prior to 01.01.2015 are eligible for rehabilitation under the JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015.

It is observed that in the case Ajay Maken v. Union of India, Reliance is placed on the Supreme Court decision and the High Court decision in the case Sudama Singh & Ors. v. Government of Delhi & Anr, it was held in the case that that removal of jhuggis without ensuring relocation would amount of gross violation of Fundamental Rights under Article 21 of the Constitution. Further, it was held that the agencies conducting the demolitions ought to conduct survey before undertaking any demolition.

It is submitted that these observations would apply across the board, in the entire NCT of Delhi.

Advocates Vrinda Bhandari, Shiyaz Razaq, Kaoliangpou Kamei, Jepi Y Chisho and Paul Kumar Kalai, represented the petitioner.

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The High Court of Telangana in the case M/s S. Square Infra v. Garneni Chalapathi Rao observed and held that the place of residence of the arbitrator would not determine the seat of arbitration.

The Single bench comprising of Justice P. Sree Sudha observed and held that merely because an arbitrator residing in Hyderabad has been appointed, it does not mean that only the Courts at Hyderabad would have the jurisdiction to decide all the matters arising out of arbitration agreement.

Facts of the Case:

In the present case, after the dispute arouse between the parties, the respondent sent a letter to the petitioner for nomination an arbitrator who is residing in Hyderabad. To its said notice, petitioner replied and declined the appointment of the arbitrator for the reason that there was no dispute which required the appointment of an arbitrator.

A suit was filled by the respondent before the VII Additional District Judge Sangareddy, seeking for relief of permanent injunction. An application was filled by the petitioner under Section 8 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act and the parties referred to the arbitration.

An application was filled by the respondent under section 9 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act before the Principal District Judge, Sangareddy, Subsequently, an application was filled by the petitioner for transferring the application from the Court at Sangareddy to Court at Hyderabad.

Contentions made by Parties:

On the following grounds, the petitioner sought the transfer of application.

An arbitrator residing in Hyderabad was nominated to respondent. However, only the courts in Hyderabad would have the jurisdiction to decide all the matters arising out of the arbitration.

It was stated that the nomination of an arbitrator residing in Hyderabad amounted to designating Hyderabad as the Seat of Arbitration.

On the following grounds, the respondent countered the submissions of the petitioner:

An application was filled by the petitioner under Section 8 of the A&C Act before the Court at Sangareddy. However, in terms of Section 42 of the A&C Act, only the court at Sangareddy would have the jurisdiction to decide all the matters arising out of arbitration.

Court Analysis:

The Court held that the seat of arbitration would not be decide by the place of residence of the arbitrator.

The argument of the petitioner was rejected by the court that since the respondent had initially nominated an arbitrator residing in Hyderabad, the Hyderabad Court would have the jurisdiction.

The court stated that merely because a party has nominated an arbitrator who resides in Hyderabad, the same would not designate Hyderabad as the Seat of arbitration in absence of any designation of the seat under the arbitration agreement.

It was further stated by the court that the application filled by the petitioner filled under Section 8 application before the Court at Sangareddy consequent to which the parties were referred to arbitration. Therefore, the Court would have the jurisdiction, in terms of Section 42 of the A&C Act.

The Transfer petition was dismissed by the Court.

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plea in Delhi High Court seeking repatriation of 56 pregnant nurses

The Delhi High Court in the case Shubham Thakral Vs ITO, the Delhi bench comprising of Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora observed and remanded the matter back to the assessing officer as just 3 days’ time was granted to respond to the income tax notice.

In the present case, the petitioner/assessee assailed the notice under Section 148A (b) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 and the order passed under Section 148A (d) for the Assessment Year 2018–19.

It was contended by the assessee that only three days’ time was granted to the assessee to respond, as against the mandatory statutory period of at least seven days. However, despite of the fact that the annexure attached to the notice gave the petitioner eight days to respond, the e-filing submission portal was closed earlier, in violation of Section 148A (b) of the Income Tax Act.

Furthermore, the petitioner relied on the decision of Delhi High Court, in the case of Shri Sai Co-operative Thrift and Credit Society Ltd versus ITO, the Delhi High Court in the case held that under Section 148A (b), a minimum time of seven days has to be granted to the assessee to file its reply to the show cause notice.

No objections were raised by the department/respondent to the matter being returned to the Assessing Officer for a fresh decision in accordance with the law. Accordingly, the court set aside the order passed under Section 148A (d) for the Assessment Year 2018-19. The Assessing officer was directed by the court to pass a fresh reasoned order in accordance with the law after considering the reply of the petitioner, which was directed to be filed within a week.

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The Allahabad High Court in the case Malhan and 17 Others Vs. State Of U.P. And Another observed and stated that an advocate should be given such a piece of advice when there is no error apparent on the face of the record nor was there any reason why the matter be re-agitated it was finally decided.

The bench comprising of Justice Dr. Kaushal Jayendra Thaker and Justice Vivek Varma observed while dealing with the civil review application wherein the bench observed the concerned advised his client to make a chance by filling the instant review application after a period of six year.

In the present case, a civil review petition was filled along with the application under section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963., the application was filled for seeking condonation of delay in filling the application, the application was filled with a delay of six years i.e., 1900 days.

It was stated by the applicant that the review application could not be filled due to the blockage of public transportation on account of the COVID-19 guidelines.

Moreover, the court observed that the appeals were disposed of by the Apex Court in the year 2016 and only in 2020-2021, the pandemic struck India and furthermore, it cannot be said that due to the COVID guidelines the public transportation was blocked and however, the applicant could not come to Allahabad Court to file review.

Further, it was stated that the court asked the counsel for the review applicants to explain the delay in filling the review application, to which the council gave a strange reply that the counsel had advised the clients that they must take a chance by filling this review application after a period of six years.

Following this, the Court observed:

The court noted that an advocate should not give such an advice when there is no error apparent on the face of record nor was there any other reason that when the matter was finally decided, why the matter be re-agitated.

It was stated that the court has no reason to condone the delay of six years as the same was not explained as to why this review application is filed after such an inordinate delay.

The Court opined that the lapse in approaching the court within the time is understandable but a total inaction for long period of delay without any explanation whatsoever and that too in absence of showing any sincere attempt on the part of suiter, this would add to his negligence and the relevant factor going against him.

The court observed that careless and reckless is shown by the review applicant in approaching the court and due to the condemnation of delay in the application with a token cost of Rs.10,000/, the court dismissed the application.

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The Supreme Court in the case Sanjay versus The State (NCT of Delhi) & ANR observed and stated that in the case where personal liberty is involved, the court is expected to pass orders at the earliest while taking into account the merits of the matter in one way or other. Further, the top court observed that posting of an application for anticipatory bail after a couple of months cannot be appreciated by the court.

The bench comprising of Justice C. T. Ravikumar and the Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia was hearing a June 2 SLP against the Delhi High Court in a petition filed under section 420, 467, 468, 471, 120-B, 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for seeking anticipatory bail in a 2022 FIR, a notice is issued. It was stated that the learned APP for the state is present and accepts the notice and seeks time to file status report. The High Court in the impugned order stated that Let the status report be filed by the state prior to the next date with an advance copy to the learned counsel for the petitioner. The matter is to be list on 31.08.2022.

It was noted by the bench comprising of Justice Ravikumar and the Justice Dhulia that in the captioned Special Leave Petition, the grievance of the petitioner is that the application for anticipatory bail moved by the petitioner, being Crl. M.A. No. 11480 of 2022 in Bail Application No. 1751 of 2022 without granting any interim protection, was posted to 31.08.2022. on 24.05.2022, the bail application was moved on.

However, the bench asserted that the bench is of the considered view that in a matter involving personal liberty, the Court is expected to to pass orders at the earliest while taking into account the merits of the matter in one way or other.

It was declared by the bench that at any rate posting an application for anticipatory bail after a couple of months cannot be appreciated by the court.

Further, the bench requested to the High Court to dispose off the application for anticipatory bail on its own merits and in accordance with law expeditiously, preferably within a period of three weeks after reopening of the Court. Adding to it, the bench stated that if the main application could not be disposed off, for any reason, within the stipulated time, relief sought for in the interlocutory and on and on its own merits, the application shall be considered.

While disposing of the SLP, the bench directed in its order that we grant interim protection from arrest to the petitioner herein, Till such time.

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