Noting that the Centre has not taken “any measure either to prevent or regulate the spraying of disinfectant on the human body” other than issuing an advisory that it is not recommended, the Supreme Court Thursday asked it to “consider and issue necessary directions… regarding ban/regulation on the usage of disinfection tunnels” and “exposure of” people “to artificial ultraviolet rays”.
The bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah directed the government to complete the exercise in one month’s time “looking at the health concern of the people in general”.
The ruling came on a plea by a student, Gursimran Singh Narula, who sought a ban on these tunnels.
Narula contended that although the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had not approved the use of such tunnels or sprays or fumigation, many organisations/public authorities were using chemical disinfectants to spray and fumigate. He referred to instances of public authorities installing disinfection tunnels.
In response, the Centre pointed out that on April 18, 2020, the Director General of Health Services (EMR Division), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, had issued an advisory against spraying of disinfectants on people to counter Covid-19.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said it was for States and Union Territories to implement it, and the role of the central government was limited to providing guidelines and financial support.
The bench, however, said that “from the pleadings brought on record on behalf of respondent No.1 (Centre), it is clear that although, by the advisory by respondent No.1, spraying of disinfectant on human body is not recommended… respondent No.1 has not taken… any measure either to prevent or regulate the spraying of disinfectant on the human body”.
The bench noted that the Disaster Management Act, 2005 specifically deals with the responsibilities of various ministries in an emergent situation.
It said “when respondent No.1 has issued advisory that use of disinfectant on human body is not recommended and it has been brought into its notice that despite the said advisory, large number of organisations, public authorities are using disinfectants on human body, it was necessary for respondent No.1 to issue necessary directions either to prevent such use or regulate such use as per requirement to protect the health of the people. The provisions of Disaster Management Act… and other provisions are not only provisions of empowerment but also cast a duty on different authorities to act in the best interest of the people to subserve the objects of the Act”.
Referring to the Centre’s contention that States and UTs had to implement the guidelines and the Centre’s role was limited to provide guidelines and financial support, the bench said “no exception can be taken to the… pleading but the provisions of the Act, 2005, confer certain more responsibilities and duties on respondent No.1 apart from issuance of guidelines and providing financial support. The Act, 2005, is a special legislation containing self-contained provisions to deal with a disaster. The Pandemic being a disaster within the meaning of Act, 2005, has to be dealt with sternly and effectively”.
“We have no doubt that the Union and the States are taking all measures to contain the pandemic and all mitigating steps, but the facts which have been brought on record in this writ petition indicate that in the present case, something more was required to be done by respondent No.1 apart from issuing advisory that use of disinfectant on human body is not recommended… public authorities/organisations were using disinfectants, both chemical/organic, on the human body and there are various studies to the effect that it may be harmful to the health and the body. Some more actions were required to remove the cloud of uncertainty and to regulate the use, even if it was to either prevent such use or regulate the use, so that health of citizens is amply protected,” the bench ruled.
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