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Covid-19 patients treated as untouchables once posters pasted on their homes, says SC


NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court said on Tuesday that once signage or posters are pasted outside the homes of Covid-19 patients, the people affected are treated as “untouchables”, reflecting a different “ground reality”.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) said however 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.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ministry, said the Centre has not prescribed this practice and some states might be pursuing it on their own to prevent the spread of the virus.

This practice has nothing to do with “stigmatising” the Covid-19 patients as it is aimed at protecting other people, the law officer told the bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah.

The top court said however that the ground reality is “something different” and as once such posters are pasted at their homes, they are treated as untouchables.

Mehta said the Centre has filed its reply to the plea in pursuance of the top court’s direction asking it to consider issuing nationwide guidelines to do away with practice of pasting posters outside the homes of Covid-19 patients.

Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General, submits that affidavit on behalf of the Union of India has been filed on November 30. Let the affidavit be placed on the record. List on December 3, the bench said in its order.

Lav Agarwal, joint secretary with the ministry, has filed an affidavit saying that all states have been intimated to this effect that the MoHFW has not issued any such guideline to identify the Covid-19 patients.

The Central government, through MoHFW has already communicated to the Additional chief secretaries …secretaries (Health) of all the states and UTs pointing it out that the MoHFW guidelines do not contain any instructions or guidance regarding affixing of posters or other signage outside the residences of those found Covid-19 positive.

“The Central government has therefore requested all the states and UTs to ensure scrupulous compliance of MoHFW guidelines on this behalf,” the affidavit said.

The apex court on November 5 had asked the Centre to consider issuing the guidelines to do away with practice of pasting posters outside the homes of Covid-19 patients.

It had directed so without issuing any formal notice to the Centre on one Kush Kalra’s plea seeking framing of the guidelines.

The bench had observed that when the Delhi government has agreed in the high court not to paste posters, why cannot the Centre come up with guidelines dealing with the matter for the entire country.

On November 3, the AAP government had told the Delhi 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.

The government had told the high court that its officials have also not been allowed to share details of Covid-19 positive persons with their neighbours, resident welfare associations or Whatsapp groups. Kalra, in his plea before the high court, had contended that freely circulating to Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and on Whatsapp groups, the names of persons who tested positive for Covid-19 was “leading to stigmatisation and drawing of unnecessary attention”. The petition had stated that Covid-19 positive persons “ought to be given privacy to cope with and recover from the illness in peace and away from prying eyes”.

“Rather, they are being made the centre of public attention..,” it had said. It had also claimed that this has resulted in persons “shying away and deliberately choosing not to test themselves” to shield themselves from the “public embarrassment and stigmatisation” which is also caused by pasting posters outside homes of Covid-19 positive patients.





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