States, UTs not required to affix posters outside residences of COVID patients: SC

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STATE TIMES NEWS

New Delhi: States and Union Territories are not required “as of now” to affix posters outside the residence of those who test positive for COVID-19 and such an exercise can be done only when direction is issued by a competent authority under the Disaster Management Act, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday.
The apex court, while taking note of the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, observed that it does not contain any requirement of pasting of posters outside the homes of COVID patients.
The Union of India has already issued DO letter dated November 19, 2020 extracted above (in the verdict) to guide the states and Union Territories, we only observe that no state or Union Territory is required to paste posters outside the residence of COVID-19 positive persons, as of now, a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said.
The state governments and Union Territories can resort to the above exercise only when any direction is issued by the competent authority under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. The writ petition is disposed of accordingly, said the bench, also comprising Justices R S Reddy and M R Shah.
The top court delivered its judgement on a plea seeking directions to do away with the practice of pasting posters outside homes of those infected by coronavirus.
In its 11-page verdict, the bench noted that Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has categorically cleared the Centre’s stand on the issue and has stated that neither any such direction has been issued by the Government of India nor it is obligatory to any state or UTs to paste such posters.
It noted that July 2 guidelines issued by the Centre Revised guidelines for home isolation of very mild/pre-symptomatic/asymptomatic COVID-19 cases’ — does not contain any such direction regarding pasting of posters outside the residences of COVID positive patients.
The bench further noted that the ministry had issued a letter dated November 19 to all the states and UTs reiterating that the guidelines do not contain any such instruction or guidance.
Although, various submissions have been made by the petitioner in support of the writ petition but in view of the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare which are referable to exercise of power by the authority under Disaster Management Act, 2005 which does not contain any requirement of pasting of posters against the houses of COVID-19 patients, the above detailed submissions need no consideration in the present writ petition, the bench said.
Petitioner Kush Kalra had questioned the decision taken by various states and UTs to affix posters outside the residences of those who have tested COVID-19 positive and are required to stay in home isolation.
Claiming violation of the right to privacy and right to live with dignity, the plea had said that directions be issued to the authorities by the apex court to stop the practice of publishing names of COVID-19 positive patients by the health department in states and UTs and also to stop circulation of their names in welfare associations of colony and apartment complex.
The plea had also said that Punjab and Delhi, which had earlier issued directions for affixing posters outside the residence of COVID patients, had already withdrawn the orders.
The Centre had earlier told the top court that its guidelines do not contain any instructions regarding affixing posters and signages outside homes of COVID-19 patients, and there cannot be any stigma attached to it.
The petitioner’s counsel had told the apex court that there are no such instructions in the guidelines to affix posters outside the home of those found COVID positive but the reality is very different .
While hearing the matter on December 1, the top court had observed that once posters or signages are pasted outside the homes of COVID patients, the people affected are treated as “untouchables”, reflecting a different “ground reality”.
In its affidavit, the ministry had said that its guidelines do not contain any instructions or guidance regarding affixing of posters or other signage outside the residences of those found COVID positive .
The apex court had earlier asked the Centre to consider issuing guidelines to do away with practice of pasting posters outside the homes of COVID-19 patients.
On November 3, the Delhi government had told the high court that it has instructed all its officials not to paste posters outside homes of COVID-19 positive persons or those in home isolation; and the ones pasted have been ordered to be removed.
Kalra, in his plea before the high court, had contended that names of persons who tested positive for COVID-19 were being freely circulated to the Resident Welfare Associations and on WhatsApp groups and this was “leading to stigmatisation and drawing of unnecessary attention”.

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