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PUCL says that the Covid-19 situation must be viewed from the perspective of human rights

The human rights organization has also said while some amount of restrictions are necessary, they shouldn’t be imposed in a manner disproportionate to what is required

by , 18 Apr 2020

People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), a frontrunner in the fight for human rights, has issued a statement on coronavirus and civil liberties saying that the pandemic is a huge global challenge that needs to be dealt with in all seriousness. Seeing the plight of migrants who have had to go through inexplicable suffering, PUCL said, “While some amount of restriction of the rights and liberties to the extent to which it is reasonable and necessary may well be justified and would be Constitutionally permissible, but not in a manner that is  disproportionate to what is actually required. There is also a tendency of the population to acquiesce with the control over their liberties expecting that this is being done in their best interests.”

“Therefore while supporting a lot of measures for the fight against CORONA virus, it is important to recognise the continued importance of civil liberties and human rights – which are guaranteed under Chapters III and IV of the Constitution of India- the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles chapters. Undoubtedly there can be restrictions on these rights but only to a limited extent and proportionate to the mischief sought to be dealt with and legitimate state interest sought to be protected,” the statement added.

The statement reads that the lockdown has resulted in a virtual abrogation of many of the civil liberties guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution, including the right to mobility, right to reside anywhere in India, right to organize and peacefully assemble, right to carry on any trade, occupation or vocation, especially at a time when India isn’t facing any situation like security emergency or financial emergency.

The statement reads, “Under Article 352 of the Constitution a national emergency can be declared if the security of the state or any of its territory is under threat due to war or external aggression or armed rebellion and upon declaration of such emergency some of the civil liberties can be suspended. Under Article 361 the President can declare ‘financial emergency”. But the provision of financial emergency does not entitle the Executive or Legislature to curtail fundamental rights which remain fully operational. At present India is not facing any situation like a security emergency or financial emergency, thus neither have been proclaimed.”

PUCL says that the announcement of lockdown was done at very short notice, especially knowing the demography and socio-economic situation in India. PUCL’s statement reads, “The present situation of the lock down which in effect tramples upon various civil liberties and human rights needs to be looked at carefully. While the first case of COCID-19 was detected on 30th January, 2020 in India, and the numbers kept on escalating over a period, the national lockdown operative from 00:00 hours on 25th March 2020, was announced only on 24th March giving virtually 4 hours’ notice to people.”

Saying that the lockdown could have been better planned to avoid the trampling on civil liberties it said, “It could have easily planned for travel arrangements for migrants, depositing money into poor people’s account, ensuring proper food distribution, community kitchens and shelters and also sufficient medical infrastructure and equipment. There was no justification for such a short gap between the announcement and imposition of the national lock down. This in itself has led to disastrous consequences for civil liberties and human rights.”

It has listed the following aspects that must be kept in mind irrespective of the emergent situation.

1.       The restrictions have to be proportionate to the danger sought to be addressed and should be narrowly tailored towards that objective.

2.       Restrictions through commands of the sovereign are premised on the ground that minus a coercive order the people will not behave in the manner which is in the best public interest. But for this, people have to be supplied information and time for preparation.   An informed and ready population will behave in a manner that satisfies public interest. But in the present case what we have witnessed is complete lack of transparency and communication of information at the time of imposing an authoritative and sudden lockdown about the available medical facilities and equipment, food security and housing, recourses for stranded people, number of migrant labourers, homeless people, domestic workers and others who require help, the transparency concerning the PM Care Fund, etc. Instead, on the ground of flouting lockdown restrictions, stranded migrant workers and poor civilians have been met with police brutalities, stigmatised and ostracised.

3.       The Coronavirus situation must be viewed within the wider perspective of human rights- socio economic rights – in India which still has the largest concentration of poor. In an already malnourished, anaemic population, large number of whom are migrant labourers, homeless people, landless labourers, those working in unorganised sector, sex workers, transgenders, orphans, abused women, Dalits, Adivasis and many of them   divided on basis of caste and communal fault lines – it is vital that all steps to deal with the pandemic bear in mind the socio economic rights of millions of already disadvantaged people.   Above all, the most basic human right, the right to food and to receive adequate financial support cannot be postponed till the Coronavirus comes under control. For millions this is a matter of life or death.  

PUCL’s statement reads that there is a live danger of a “new normal” being created and used by government agencies to expand restrictions of civil liberties and human rights. It said, “Continued and widespread surveillance should always be avoided. The patterns by which this particular virus spreads cannot be made a justification for putting in place a surveillance system that will last and be applicable well beyond this time of medical crisis.”

In conclusion, the statement says that many other liberties will be taken in the guise of furthering national interest like the latest MHA order that reasserts lockdown restrictions, but allows construction activities during the period of lockdown. It says, “The rights of workers will be further diluted under the guise of economic necessity. Environmental regulations will be further diluted under the excuse of fast tracking the economy. There is therefore a continued and long-term threat to civil liberties which we have to be wary of and fight against.”

Related:

Covid-19: What is India going to do about the Racism and Communalism epidemic that plagues it?
Download Aarogya Setu app, donate to PM CARES: Jharkhand HC's bizarre conditions for bail

 

PUCL says that the Covid-19 situation must be viewed from the perspective of human rights

The human rights organization has also said while some amount of restrictions are necessary, they shouldn’t be imposed in a manner disproportionate to what is required

People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), a frontrunner in the fight for human rights, has issued a statement on coronavirus and civil liberties saying that the pandemic is a huge global challenge that needs to be dealt with in all seriousness. Seeing the plight of migrants who have had to go through inexplicable suffering, PUCL said, “While some amount of restriction of the rights and liberties to the extent to which it is reasonable and necessary may well be justified and would be Constitutionally permissible, but not in a manner that is  disproportionate to what is actually required. There is also a tendency of the population to acquiesce with the control over their liberties expecting that this is being done in their best interests.”

“Therefore while supporting a lot of measures for the fight against CORONA virus, it is important to recognise the continued importance of civil liberties and human rights – which are guaranteed under Chapters III and IV of the Constitution of India- the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles chapters. Undoubtedly there can be restrictions on these rights but only to a limited extent and proportionate to the mischief sought to be dealt with and legitimate state interest sought to be protected,” the statement added.

The statement reads that the lockdown has resulted in a virtual abrogation of many of the civil liberties guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution, including the right to mobility, right to reside anywhere in India, right to organize and peacefully assemble, right to carry on any trade, occupation or vocation, especially at a time when India isn’t facing any situation like security emergency or financial emergency.

The statement reads, “Under Article 352 of the Constitution a national emergency can be declared if the security of the state or any of its territory is under threat due to war or external aggression or armed rebellion and upon declaration of such emergency some of the civil liberties can be suspended. Under Article 361 the President can declare ‘financial emergency”. But the provision of financial emergency does not entitle the Executive or Legislature to curtail fundamental rights which remain fully operational. At present India is not facing any situation like a security emergency or financial emergency, thus neither have been proclaimed.”

PUCL says that the announcement of lockdown was done at very short notice, especially knowing the demography and socio-economic situation in India. PUCL’s statement reads, “The present situation of the lock down which in effect tramples upon various civil liberties and human rights needs to be looked at carefully. While the first case of COCID-19 was detected on 30th January, 2020 in India, and the numbers kept on escalating over a period, the national lockdown operative from 00:00 hours on 25th March 2020, was announced only on 24th March giving virtually 4 hours’ notice to people.”

Saying that the lockdown could have been better planned to avoid the trampling on civil liberties it said, “It could have easily planned for travel arrangements for migrants, depositing money into poor people’s account, ensuring proper food distribution, community kitchens and shelters and also sufficient medical infrastructure and equipment. There was no justification for such a short gap between the announcement and imposition of the national lock down. This in itself has led to disastrous consequences for civil liberties and human rights.”

It has listed the following aspects that must be kept in mind irrespective of the emergent situation.

1.       The restrictions have to be proportionate to the danger sought to be addressed and should be narrowly tailored towards that objective.

2.       Restrictions through commands of the sovereign are premised on the ground that minus a coercive order the people will not behave in the manner which is in the best public interest. But for this, people have to be supplied information and time for preparation.   An informed and ready population will behave in a manner that satisfies public interest. But in the present case what we have witnessed is complete lack of transparency and communication of information at the time of imposing an authoritative and sudden lockdown about the available medical facilities and equipment, food security and housing, recourses for stranded people, number of migrant labourers, homeless people, domestic workers and others who require help, the transparency concerning the PM Care Fund, etc. Instead, on the ground of flouting lockdown restrictions, stranded migrant workers and poor civilians have been met with police brutalities, stigmatised and ostracised.

3.       The Coronavirus situation must be viewed within the wider perspective of human rights- socio economic rights – in India which still has the largest concentration of poor. In an already malnourished, anaemic population, large number of whom are migrant labourers, homeless people, landless labourers, those working in unorganised sector, sex workers, transgenders, orphans, abused women, Dalits, Adivasis and many of them   divided on basis of caste and communal fault lines – it is vital that all steps to deal with the pandemic bear in mind the socio economic rights of millions of already disadvantaged people.   Above all, the most basic human right, the right to food and to receive adequate financial support cannot be postponed till the Coronavirus comes under control. For millions this is a matter of life or death.  

PUCL’s statement reads that there is a live danger of a “new normal” being created and used by government agencies to expand restrictions of civil liberties and human rights. It said, “Continued and widespread surveillance should always be avoided. The patterns by which this particular virus spreads cannot be made a justification for putting in place a surveillance system that will last and be applicable well beyond this time of medical crisis.”

In conclusion, the statement says that many other liberties will be taken in the guise of furthering national interest like the latest MHA order that reasserts lockdown restrictions, but allows construction activities during the period of lockdown. It says, “The rights of workers will be further diluted under the guise of economic necessity. Environmental regulations will be further diluted under the excuse of fast tracking the economy. There is therefore a continued and long-term threat to civil liberties which we have to be wary of and fight against.”

Related:

Covid-19: What is India going to do about the Racism and Communalism epidemic that plagues it?
Download Aarogya Setu app, donate to PM CARES: Jharkhand HC's bizarre conditions for bail

 

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