SC Rules Covid19 Quarantine Posters Outside Homes Violate Right to Privacy
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that posters announcing home isolation or health status should not be affixed outside residences of Covid19 patients. The ruling is an attempt to put an end to the “hard reality” of Covid19 patients being treated as “untouchable,” the justices wrote.
In response to the government’s argument that such posters don’t stigmatize, but rather warn of public health risk, the Supreme Court noted, however, that such posters can be put up in special cases, under specific directions from competent authorities under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. The Court did not specify what qualified as a special case.
The judgment — Kush Kalra v. Union of India — was a result of a petition filed by advocate Kush Kulra, who challenged the common containment practice as a violation of the fundamental rights to privacy and to live with dignity.
“Covid19, with its malefic effects, is the most harrowing experience, both physically and mentally. To add to this is the traumatizing experience of living in isolation and the severe curtailment of freedom…. The State cannot be permitted to affix posters outside residences and circulate names, which leads to further curtailment of the rights of such persons,” Kalra argued.
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Acknowledging the concerns, the Supreme Court noted in course of the hearing that “the hard reality is that many such patients are treated like untouchable.” And so, to prevent this stigma, the court directed authorities and officials to “not disclose the names of Covid19-positive persons to any person or resident welfare associations, neighborhood welfare groups, apartment block groups, etc.”
The court further noted that the guidelines on home isolation issued by the Health Ministry in July did not contain any directions regarding putting up posters outside homes of Covid19-patients. The Health Ministry, in fact, has also been combating the poster practice, writing a letter to all the states and union territories in November that emphasized public declarations of the home, name, and health status of Covid19 patients are uncalled for.
Minimizing the social stigma around Covid19 could not only prevent discrimination against patients of Covi19, but also allow more people come forward and get tested without fear of backlash, stated the three-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, B.R. Gavai and M.R. Shah.