Mon, 18 Jan 2021

New Delhi [India], December 3 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its order on a public suit against the decision of states and Union Territories (UTs) to affix posters outside the homes of COVID-19 patients, thereby divulging their identities.

A bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, reserved the order on the public interest litigation (PIL) after hearing arguments from all the parties in the case.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said there are no guidelines from Centre to affix posters outside COVID-19 pateints home.

"No guidelines which call for the affixation of posters by Centre. It appears that the same was done for purposes to warn people before they enter a COVID-19 patients' home," Mehta said.

Advocate Chinmoy Pradip Sharma, appearing for the petitioner, told the bench that the posters that affixed outside homes have names of the pateints and in RWAs' WhatsApp group their names are being circulated. It was like they are being outcast, he added.

"Names of people being written on posters and RWAs has WhatsApp texts going around with names of such people who are COVID-19 positive. There should be a positive direction from govermment and Court which will end this practice," Sharma contended.

Delhi, Punjab and Odisha governments have now barred this practice, Sharma told the bench.

During the hearing, the bench had asked Solicitor General if Centre can issue advisory to the states, unless there is a specific problem they should not do it? Solicitor General replied that advisory has already been issued by Centre in this regard.

Earlier, Justice MR Shah had said hard reality is different and these people are treated like untouchables.

The PIL, filed by advocate Kush Kalra, challenged the affixing of posters outside the homes of COVID-19 patients as a mark of identification and divulging names of such patients to housing societies' management and Resident Welfare Associations, saying such disclosure of the identity of patients is in gross violation of their fundamental right to privacy.

The plea sought directions to ensure such disclosure of names does not take place and quashing of the executive orders of the states and Union Territories that allow affixing of posters outside homes of the COVID-19 patients.

It said the act adds to the stigma attached to the disease and the revelation of names of patients also fail the tests of proportionality and reasonableness.

"The Constitution does not and can never permit discrimination on the ground of illness and physical suffering," the plea said, adding that circulation of names of such persons publicly and subjecting them to the scrutiny of the public goes against the ethos of living with dignity. (ANI)

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