The Delhi High Court on Monday said it was “unwilling to hold that in each and in every case, the period of home quarantine must stand limited to 14 days, and no more” for the persons tested positive of Covid-19.
“Certain inconveniences, and difficulties are bound to arise in the process…”, said Justice C Hari Shankar while disposing of a plea by a photojournalist, who had questioned the Delhi government’s mechanism of implementing Covid-19 quarantine guidelines.
The petitioner was a resident of one of the 72 houses that came in contact with a pizza delivery person, who had tested positive for the disease on April 14.
The court in its order observed that “at the same time, keeping a person under unjustified home quarantine also has deleterious civil consequences.”
“… this court is of the opinion that, at this juncture, the interests of justice would be abundantly protected by a direction, to the effect that if any person, who does not display Covid-19 symptoms, and has not tested positive for the Covid-19 virus, is home quarantined for over 14 days, he shall have a right to represent to the authorities against such continued quarantine and, if he so represents, the authorities would be bound either to lift the quarantine forthwith, or to explain, to the person concerned, as expeditiously as possible and without any undue delay, the reason for keeping him in home quarantine for over 14 days,” it said.
It further said that, “all notices, placing persons under home quarantine, have necessarily to indicate the period of home quarantine, as well as the date from which it is to commence.”
The man had moved the court highlighting that the quarantine notice pasted outside his house on April 15 said he was in quarantine from the midnight of March 24-25, when he first had contact with the delivery person, till April 20 — 28 days as against the stipulated 14 days.
The plea had further said that on April 17, another quarantine notice was pasted on his door. This time, the period specified was April 14-28.
The petitioner had sought directions to the Delhi government to strictly adhere to the guidelines for home quarantine and follow due procedure “when issues of liberty are at stake”.
He had also sought quashing the two home quarantine notices on the ground that they have imposed a quarantine period of over 30 days from the date of contact on the pizza delivery person, which is not “contemplated by law”.
The court was of the view that “certain inconveniences, and difficulties are bound to arise in the process. It is incumbent, on each one of us, to contribute our efforts in this direction, and to forbear from rushing to Court, at the drop of a hat.
“Of course, were the efforts, to battle the Covid-19 pandemic, to actually breach any civil or constitutional rights of citizens, it would be the duty of the court to step in and remedy the situation.”
“In the opinion of this court, the period of 14 days, stipulated in the afore-extracted provisions in the guidelines of March 14, 2020 and the 2020 Regulations is not mandatory, but is intended to serve as a general guideline.
“As of today, there is no certainty of opinion, regarding the extent of virulence of the Covid-19 virus, its actual period of gestation, the period taken for symptoms, in an infected person, to manifest themselves, or the period for which a person, once infected, remains a potential source of infection to others. The medical community, the world over, is yet to come to grips with this virus, and isolate its individual characteristics,” it said.
The petitioners’ counsel — Shyel Trehan — has also pointed out that persons who are under home quarantine are unaware of the officer, who is required to be contacted, should any exigency arise during the period of home quarantine.
Delhi government’s counsel — Shobhana Takiar — submitted that “a helpline number, on which persons, in home quarantine, can establish contact with the Ministry/Departments, would be displayed on the official website of the Government of NCT of Delhi (GNCTD).”
Taking noting of which, the court directed the Delhi government to “ensure that this is done forthwith”.
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