Measures to control Corona Virus: Recent Judgments

In Re. Corona Virus COVID-19 PANDEMIC Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh, rep. by its Chief Secretary and another, (this case was taken up Writ Petition No. 8130/ 2020, Dated 26-03-2020), the Hon’ble High Court issued certain guidelines on various issues as follows:

ORDER
(Per J.K. Maheshwari, C.J.)

In view of the epidemic crisis on account of Corona Virus COVID19 and to take preventive measures, for the purpose of limited functioning of the High Court as well as the Subordinate Courts, directions were issued on 16.03.2020, 24.03.2020 and 26.03.2020. In view of the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s call declaring lock-down for 21 days from the midnight of 24.03.2020, the directions issued by the Ministry of Human Resources dated 24.03.2020 and also the order passed in Suo Motu Writ Petition (C) No.1 of 2020 by Hon’ble the Supreme Court on 23.03.2020, in addition to the various contingencies which have been reported to the Registry of this Court through the Registrar (Judicial), regarding the access to the boundaries of the State of Andhra Pradesh by various permanent residents of this State on account of their release by the Telangana State, with no-objections, problems faced by the Doctors working in Primary Health Centres and to review the functioning of the Court, this Court deems it appropriate to take this matter as pro bono publico with intent to avoid unnecessary complications. This Court is also of the view that health of a citizen is within the purview of Article 21 (Right to Live) guaranteed to a citizen to live in healthy atmosphere. Further, the different problems which are being complained to the Registry of this Court to take up various cases for hearing, the cognizance has been taken.

2. It is to be noted here that previously, regarding functioning of the High Court and subordinate Courts, notifications were issued on 16.03.2020, 24.03.2020 and 26.03.2020 with exhaustive directions. Thereafter, it was brought to the notice bythe Registrar (Judicial) that number of persons who have been left by the Telangana State, by certification to go home, are stranding on the limits of the boundaries of the State of Andhra Pradesh, but they are not being allowed to enter into, however, mass gathering is there. In rebuttal to the same, as per the instructions, Sri C.Sumon, Government Pleader, representing the learned Advocate General, states that (44) persons who agreed to go quarantine have been permitted to undergo observation and the remaining persons have been sent back to the Telangana State. It is a fact that the said persons were returned to the State of Andhra Pradesh because they are natives/residents of the State of Andhra Pradesh and their families are here. It has also been reported that some females along with children and pregnant women were stopped for a long time; however, the said issue is also related to the health of the citizens and necessary for preventive measure of transmitting pandemic Corona Virus COVID-19.

3. It is further brought to the notice of the Registrar (Judicial) that at severalplaces, under the orders of the Revenue Divisional Officers, the authorities of Revenue or Municipalities and Panchayat are reaching on the spot for demolition, dispossession/eviction; however, insisting to hear those cases. It has also been brought to the notice that in number of cases, the bank authorities are going to auction the premises during this period in view of the provisions of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002; however, insistence is made to take up these matters. It has also been informed by number of Advocates that without calling for tenders, entrustment of work by nomination is being made on the lapse of the period of lease. It has also been brought to the notice that in the matters in which interim orders were passed by the High Court and subordinate Courts and Tribunals, stay has been granted for a limited period, however, extension of stay has further been sought for.

4. Simultaneously, in view of the order passed by Hon’ble the Supreme Court on 23.03.2020 in Suo MotuWrit Petition (C) No.1 of 2020, measures are required to be taken with respect to the prisoners who are in jail in view of the resolution of the Committee so formulated by the Supreme Court. It is reported that, today, i.e. on 26.03.2020, in the proceedings in the presence of the Executive Chairman, State Legal Services Authority, Executive Chairman, High Court Legal Services Committee, Principal Secretary, Home and Director General of Prisons, certain recommendations have been made, which are as under:

At the very outset, before getting more details regarding number of prisoners in different prisons in the State, in compliance with the orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the Committee has resolved, firstly, to give a proposal to the Hon’ble Chief Justice for constituting a bench for issuance of general direction to all the Jail Superintendents regarding release of prisoners provisionally for a period of four(4) weeks on bail to those prisoners who are either convict or under trial for offences in which maximum sentence prescribed is not more than seven (7) years. However, this benefit can be given to only those under trials/prisoners who are not accused in more than one case and also are not accused in cases relating to offence under Section 376 IPC or offences under the POCSO Act.

Regarding inmates of juvenile remand homes, information was furnished by the Director, Social Welfare, Ms.Krithika Shukla, that considering the limited number of such inmates and available space, social distancing can be maintained in the remand homes itself. In view of such information furnished by the Government, the Committee presently resolved not to issue any direction in this line.

In view of the guidelines of Hon’ble Supreme Court in Inhuman Conditions in 1382 v. State of Assam {(2016) 3 SCC 700}, and Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar {2014 (2) ALT (Crl.) 457 = (2014) 8 SCC 273}, on collecting detailed information regarding number of prisoners kept in different jails and availability of proper space, the Committee may, after collecting such information, sit for further decision after two (2) days.
It is further clarified that after being released on provisional bail, the said prisoners/under trials will ensure to remain in quarantine for fourteen (14) days. This privilege for grant of provisional bail may not be applicable to the prisoner/undertrials, who are diagnosed with autoimmune diseases, which can be clarified by the respective medical officers of the jails.

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5. It has been brought to the notice that necessary essential facilities are not available to the citizens in the State of Andhra Pradesh providing food, treatment to poor and other facilities. Considering all these aspects, in the present situation of lock-down in which citizens are not permitted to move and approach the Court, however, we deem it appropriate to issue the following directions as an interim measure:

(i)   All the cases in which interim orders were passed by the High Court, District Courts, Civil Courts, Family Courts, Labour Courts, Industrial and other Tribunals, functioning in the State of Andhra Pradesh, over which the High Court has the power of superintendence and the stay has expired two weeks prior or are due to expire within a period of one month, shall continue to operate for a further period of one month from today. It is made clear here that interim orders which are having a limited duration shall continue to operate until further orders;

(ii)   In criminal matters where bail/suspension has been granted by the Court either anticipatory or regular for a limited period, which are likely to expire within one month from today, shall be automatically extended for a further period of one month from today;

(iii)   In the matters in which demolition, dispossession, eviction, auction is in question, in those cases, if limited stay is granted, it be treated to be extended for one month or otherwise, the instrumentalities shall not proceed for the above until one month from today;

(iv)   In the matters of tenders, if they have not been finalized, they shall not be given effect to for a period of one month and the process may be made after expiry of the lock-down period.

(v)   As this Court feels that the citizens are not in a position to reach the Court on account of lock-down of the boundaries and surveillance by the Police, however, for redressal of their grievance, we have been developing a URL, which shall be notified by Registrar General. Publishing URL in the official website of the High Court for e-filing to Advocates is only with regard to genuine grievances. They may submit their petitions by way of e-mail, viz., regjudaphc@nic.in on the same lines till then. On submission of the petitions, the Government may submit their objections and they shall be considered for the purpose of interim relief by the High Court through the Benches constituted by the Chief Justice, by way of Video Conference and if necessary opportunity of personal hearing may be offered on demand. Otherwise, interim relief may be considered on the facts and circumstances of the case;

(vi)   The State Government is directed to ensure and provide all necessary equipment like N-95 masks, sterile medical gloves, starch apparels, personal protection equipment and all other necessary things to the Doctors in the dispensaries and other Paramedical staff, thereby they may be in a position to provide medical aid to the citizens;

(vii)   The issue regarding entry on boundaries of the State of Andhra Pradesh is concerned, it is directed that no mass gathering shall be allowed by the authorities of both the States. The officers of both the States shall follow National Protocol or otherwise looking to the peculiar situation in which the citizens of the State of Andhra Pradesh have been left over by the Telangana State, to go to their homes, taking due steps for quarantine process, by staying at their homes through such undertaking, on necessary tests, the National Protocol shall be observed by them. In any case, care of females with children and pregnant women must be undertaken by the authorities with humanity; however, officers of both the States shall observe National Protocol applying exceptional circumstances with due care.

(viii)   As per the resolution of the committee formulated by the Supreme Court, dated 26.03.2020, it is directed that the convicts or under-trial offenders for the offences to which maximum sentence prescribed is not more than (7) years, may be released on interim bail on furnishing adequate bail bonds if they are not second offenders and also not offenders under Section 376 of IPC and POCSO Act, for a period of one month. For the purpose of bail bond, it is however directed that the Principal District and Sessions Judge shall assign the Judicial Magistrate to reach the District Jails on being asked by the Superintendent of the Central Jail of his area, for furnishing/accepting adequate bail bonds to the satisfaction of the Magistrate, for their release to a limited period. The undertaking shall be taken from them for having quarantine for 14 days at their home under the surveillance of the Doctor with the help of the Police.

(ix)   Violation of conditions would entail cancellation of the interim bail/suspension and such persons who violate the conditions may be taken to custody immediately;

(x)   As stated by the Director of Social Welfare, Ms.Kritika Shukla, that limited number of inmates are in the remand homes, however, due care and caution be taken for social distancing to those children in the remand homes. The said social distancing must be maintained in the CCIs., and SAAs., in the State.

(xi)   In the case of health checkup, the State shall protect the confidentiality regarding patients and the poor patients shall not be discriminated with others. It is further to direct that marginalised and poor must have access to healthcare and they should be provided adequate food facilities; thereby they should not sleep with empty stomach in the night;

(xii)   Essential items may be made available to the citizens as specified in the circular issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs dated 24.03.2020 specifying the protocol to those vendors;
(xiii)   The Police, Doctors, paramedical staff and other persons engaged in these days may be provided adequate facilities on account of rendering emergent services by them.

(xiv)   Because of the fact that flights, trains have been stopped and the road transportation has also been checked due to lock-down, but in the State of Andhra Pradesh, there is a coastal area, where ships are coming to the ports, however, due care and caution as directed by the Central Government must be taken by the authorities in the ports at Visakhapatnam, Kakinada, Machilipatnam, Kalingapatnam and other sea ports and the port authorities are directed to take special measures in this regard in coordination with the State authorities.
6. The above directions shall remain in force for a period of one month.

 

In another case of Dr. Koilagandla Nirajnaj Vs. Union of India rep. by its Prl. Secretary, Dept. of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of India, New Delhi and others – PIL – Writ Petition Number 84/2020, Dated 26-03-2020, the Hon’ble Division Bench consisting their Lordships J.K. MAHESHWARI and M. SATYANARAYANA MURTHY,JJ, issued certain guidelines to control Corona Virus, when Writ Petition was filed questioning action of the respondents in refusing to allow the people coming from Hyderabad, State of Telangana with No Objection Certificate issued by the said State and to permit them to cross the border and enter into Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh border to go to their native places/villages.

The Hon’ble Division Bench passed an order as follows;

ORDER
Petition, under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, is filed questioning action of the respondents in refusing to allow the people coming from Hyderabad, State of Telangana with ‘No Objection Certificate’ issued by the said State and to permit them to cross the border and enter into Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh border to go to their native places/villages, and to declare the same as illegal, arbitrary and violative of Articles 19 (1) (d) and 21 of the Constitution of India.

  1. Petitioner invoked the jurisdiction of the Probono Publicoalleging that on account of a new disease named Novel Corona virus (COVID-19) emerged in early December, 2019 in China and has now spread over to several Countries. As on date, India has reported 678 cases, mostly among those who had travelled from affected Countries. It causes minor illness in majority of patients with symptoms of fever and/or cough. A small proportion of such persons may progress to severe disease with difficulty in breathing. It will be transmitted by an infected person with COVID-19 coughing and the droplets from his cough, infecting others in close vicinity (less than one meter). Any such new disease invariably related to cough leads to suggestions from various quarters especially in social media, to use mask by general public to prevent the disease.
    3. Various employees, students and other persons, belonging to various walks of life, have been residing in Hyderabad and other places of the State of Telangana. On account of the lock down in the entire Country, the entire life of the citizens has come to a standstill and virtually every activity stood paralysed. Therefore, the residents of Hyderabad and other parts of Telangana and belong to the state of Andhra Pradesh were permitted to go over to their native places by issuing ‘No Objection Certificate’ by the Government of Telangana.
    4. From 25.03.2020 onwards, various persons, belonging to the state of Andhra Pradesh, have been permitted to go over to their native places by issuance of a ‘No Objection Certificate’. The hostels, restaurants, hotels, etc., were closed down and many of the students were finding it very difficult to find any accommodation as also the food very much needed for their sustenance. By the evening of 25.03.2020, the Government of Telangana, having realized the difficulty that had arisen on account of the closure of hostels etc., had revoked the said decision. In the meanwhile, various persons, students, employees along with their families have started to come down to their native places in the State of Andhra Pradesh in their own and hired vehicles. However, the respondents stopped them at the aforesaid borders stating that they have no instructions to permit their entry into the State of Andhra Pradesh, as all the boarders have been sealed as per the instructions of the Government. Thus, the various persons were stranded at the aforesaid boarders viz., Addanki border near Damacherla, Jaggaipeta Border, Tiruvuru borders in Guntur and Krishna Districts and various elderly persons, who are infirm and sick, pregnant women and all persons have been suffering without any food, water and all other amenities like washroom facilities etc. They are unable to go back, since the shutdown would be in force till 14.04.2020 and they are in a state of utter shock and dismay and the authorities of the State of Andhra Pradesh have been unable to decide one way or the other. Hence, their standing on the border causes serious prejudice to the right to move and, as such, he requested to issue a direction to allow them to move to the State of Andhra Pradesh.

 

5. Heard, learned counsel for the petitioner, Sri G.V.R.Chowdary, and the learned Special Government Pleader on behalf of the learned Advocate General.

6. It is a peculiar case where the petitioner was prevented from entry into the State of Andhra Pradesh from Hyderabad which is the capital of the State of Telangana. The reason for imposing such restriction is to prevent transmitting COVID-19 from one person to the other and to maintain social distance.

7.The main reason for spreading such disease is transportation of virus by the persons travelling from the affected countries suffering from infection and transmitting the same to various persons by their failure to maintain the social distance. Undoubtedly, petitioner was not allowed to enter into the State because of the alleged protocol issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and, according to the learned Special Government Pleader, appearing on behalf of the learned Advocate General, if the persons agree to observe quarantine for fourteen days in terms of the protocol issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, they have no objection to allow them to enter into the State of Andhra Pradesh.

8. The step taken by the State only to prevent further transmitting of Novel COVID-19 to others. If they are allowed to observe quarantine for fourteen days, the possibility of transmitting virus to others can be prevented. However, it is not known how many quarantine beds are available in the various parts of the State to take those people to quarantine or isolation centres. If the sick and infirm persons are not allowed and made to stand in open air, it will add to sufferance further and it may cause serious damage to their health. Hence, concerned authorities may conduct medical examination of those persons at the border itself by a competent Doctor and, if anyone of them are found unfit to move in the public and required to go to quarantine centres, take such person only to quarantine centre, leaving the other persons to enter into the State to home quarantine under the surveillance of the doctor with the help of concerned police subject to the restrictions imposed by the State and Central Governments, restricting their movement on account of lockdown for twenty one days.

9. Hence, taking into consideration of the present conditions prevailing in the State and sickness and infirmity of several persons including pregnant women, we find it appropriate to direct the State to allow those persons with ‘No Objection Certificate’ obtained from the State of Telangana, examine them at the place of entry itself medically, if they are found medically unfit to move freely in the public, take them to quarantine centres and if they are not required to be kept in quarantine centres or isolation centres to allow them to enter into the State of Andhra Pradesh to home quarantine under the surveillance of the doctor with the help of concerned police subject to lockdown declared in the country.

10. With the above direction, the W.P.(PIL).(SR).No.11080 of 2020 is disposed of at the stage of admission with the consent of both the learned counsel. There shall be no order as to costs.

 

In Re : Cognizance For Extension of Limitation Vs. .( Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) 3/2020, Dated 23-03-2020), the Hon’ble Apex Court passed the following order.

ORDER
This Court has taken Suo Motu cognizance of the situation arising out of the challenge faced by the country on account of Covid-19 Virus and resultant difficulties that may be faced by litigants across the country in filing their petitions/applications/suits/ appeals/all other proceedings within the period of limitation prescribed under the general law of limitation or under Special Laws (both Central and/or State).

  1. To obviate such difficulties and to ensure that lawyers/litigants do not have to come physically to file such 2 proceedings in respective Courts/Tribunals across the country including this Court, it is hereby ordered that a period of limitation in all such proceedings, irrespective of the limitation prescribed under the general law or Special Laws whether condonable or not shall stand extended w.e.f. 15th March 2020 till further order/s to be passed by this Court in present proceedings.
  2. We are exercising this power under Article 142 read with Article 141 of the Constitution of India and declare that this order is a binding order within the meaning of Article 141 on all Courts/Tribunals and authorities.
  3. This order may be brought to the notice of all High Courts for being communicated to all subordinate Courts/Tribunals within their respective jurisdiction.
  4. Issue notice to all the Registrars General of the High Courts, returnable in four weeks.
Miscellaneous

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