The Covid-19 pandemic is one such unprecedented and grim event throughout the world that has caused widespread disruptions in normal operations across industries and life in general. In India, the National Disaster Management Authority determined that India was threatened by the spread of Covid-19, which has led to actions being taken under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and the Disaster Management Act, 2005. To combat with the widespread transmission of COVID-19, the Ministry of Home Affair imposed a nationwide lock-down in India till 31 May 2020.
Whether the nationwide lockdown imposed by Ministry of Home Affairs is in consonance with the fundamental rights?
The term ‘lockdown’ has not been defined under Indian law but is still being used to curtail the fundamental right of movement enshrined under Article 19(1)(d) of the Indian Constitution. This cannot be termed as invalid because on reading Article 19(5), it makes it very clear that ‘reasonable restrictions’ can be imposed on these rights in the interests of the general public. The closest understanding of a ‘lockdown’ can be construed from Section 2 and 2(a) of the Epidemic Diseases Act and Section 6 of Disaster Management Act, which was used to enforce the lock-down.
In State of Punjab v. MS Chawla, the SC interpreted Article 21 in a broad manner, stating that “right to health is integral to the right to life. Therefore, the State has a positive obligation to swing into action in the need of a public health such as the present global pandemic to protect the lives of its people.
Therefore, as far as the legal tenability of the lockdown is concerned the Centre actions are sound in Law.
This article is written by Rishika and edited by Rupreet Kaur Dhariwal.