The Bombay High Court Nagpur bench sought response from the Maharashtra Government and Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) on a plea challenging the latter’s decision to shift more than 1200 persons, including women and children, from COVID hotspots in Nagpur to an institutional quarantine.
A single judge bench of Justice Anil S Kilor heard through videoconference on Sunday an urgent plea filed by local resident Mohammad Nishat, who alleged that civic authorities illegally detained nearly 1408 persons from Satranjipura and Mominpura areas, claiming that they were high-risk contacts of those who tested positive for COVID-19.
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The operation in Satranjipura area in east Nagpur started late on April 27 night and went on till April 28 morning. The area has been the focal point for civic and police administration ever since the first coronavirus-related death was reported there on April 5. The deceased, a 68-year-old man with several comorbidities, had no travel history and was later found to have come in contact with one of his sons-in-laws’ friend, who had links with the Tablighi event in Delhi. Since then, the number of cases in the NMC area has gone up.
A public interest litigation (PIL) filed through advocate Tushar Mandlekar alleged non-compliance of COVID-19 guidelines by civic body and said that authorities were picking up people randomly from particular areas in Nagpur and putting them in quarantine.
Mandlekar claimed that authorities violated protocols and guidelines issued by the Central Government and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and said that only persons found to be COVID-positive and their high-risk or low risk contacts can be detained and quarantined for 14 days.
If any person who is not falling in any of the said category, puttin them in quarantine amounts to infringement of their fundamental rights of freedom of expression and right to life with dignity, the petitioner argued.
Mandlekar, referring to news reports, stated that authorities took several people from Satranjipura and Mominpura and quarantined them in MLA Hostel and Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (VNIT), both located in crowded areas.
“As per the guidelines the quarantine facility in a community-based facility shall preferably be placed in the outskirts of the urban area, away from crowded and populated areas to a secured area,” Mandlekar argued.
However, advocate Sudhir M Puranik for NMC submitted that the civic body is strictly following the COVID-19 guidelines and patients who are in the category of ‘high risk contacts’ are being quarantine and sought time to reply to the plea.
Dr. Pravin Gantawar of NMC Health department said that all these people were from the ‘high risk contact category and precautions are being taken before putting people in quarantine as per the guidelines.
Advocate Mandlekar said that he did not dispute that the authorities are working in the interest of citizens of Nagpur with an intention to contain COVID-19 outbreak.
However, he said that the petitioner is concerned about places where these persons are being quarantined being crowded. Possibility of causing further infection to other persons residing nearby these two places cannot be ruled out, Mandlekar claimed
Assistant Solicitor General Ulhas Aurangabadkar and State government lawyer S Y Deopujari sought two-day time from the Court to file their response to the plea.
Issuing notices to authorities seeking response to the plea, the bench posted further hearing on Tuesday, May 5.
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