• Lex Specialis

The Constitutional Validity of Lockdown in India

- Simran Bais


A Nationwide Lockdown was imposed on 24th March, 2020 by the Prime Minister of India invoking Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act for a period of three weeks. The lockdown has been extended thrice thereafter from 14th April 2020 and which continues till date. The measures adopted for lockdown include shutting down of non-essential activities, government establishments, private and commercial establishments, industries, transport by rail, air, educational institutions, place of worship, political gatherings etc.


It is an undeniable fact that the lockdown has caused untold hardships to the people of the country, some prominent of them being the food crisis, migrant crisis and various other issues. The lockdown has resulted in a situation where people of the country are put in house arrest without being accused of any offence. Articles 13, 14, 19, and 21 of the constitution have been violated through the imposition of lockdown. In the guise of taking measures to curb the spread of the pandemic, the most vulnerable section of the society is becoming more vulnerable to the deadly disease whose cure is unknown.


The Plight of Migrant Workers


The chaotic aftermath of lockdown is evidenced by heart-wrenching scenes at inter-state transport, labor markets, bus depots, and railway stations. The following factors were good enough to ensure the extermination of the workers and witness their plight. The factors being that livelihood of the workers were snatched away, immediately after the imposition of national lockdown they were rendered shelterless, the fact that they can go to their native places was shattered by the non-availability of transport services, they traveled thousands of kilometers barefooted resulting in the death of some people the combination of these factors throw light on the system keeping in mind the vulnerable section of society.


The Rise in Police Brutality During Lockdown


Police brutality was at the soar during the phase of imposition of lockdown. Police brutality at the outset is a civil right violation. As the World is suffering from the COVID-19 millions of people worry about how they will have access to some basic amenities like food, water amidst the rise in police brutality. It is to be noted that the rise can be attributed to several factors on the part of police some of them being pressure on police to perform overnight duties, along with being underpaid will exacerbate the use of force during the pandemic.


Another reason which can be attributed to the use of non-reasonable force on the part of police officials is the lack of clear guidelines issued to the Police personnel. In other words, there are no clear directives issued to the Police regarding which activities need to be permitted and which one needs to be discarded. The Police have brutally attacked the migrant workers and people who were going outside even to buy some essential commodities. These cases elaborate on the dehumanizing actions of Police. Though for a Police official or any other government functionary on duty, this seems to be a point of hollow appeal. It seems that police officials have forgotten that the rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India are not only precious but quintessential to our existence. It reflects the tendency of some to acquire extra powers amidst extraordinary circumstances and across the country, the victims crushed under such muscle power are most vulnerable. There is a need to stop the flagrant abuse of rights which are endowed to the Police not for brutal treatment but for the welfare of the citizens for protection of their rights and not violation of the same.


Right to Digital Education- A Myth?


Article 26 of UDHR recognizes Education as an essential right. [1] With the closure of educational institutions amidst COVID-19 to halt the spread of the disease. The education which is recognized as a Fundamental Right [1] needs to be in continuity even in the time of crisis. Technology has the potential to improve the Universal education and quality of the same. In the era of digital divide, the expanding online education will put the digital haves to the periphery of the system and will make the digital haves acquire all the potential benefits which is against the spirit of democracy. In the phase of COVID-19, the elements of adaptability and accessibility are in question. Education should be accessible as well as adaptable to everyone without any discrimination and therefore, the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights the right to education is a progressive realization and questions the availability of the state. In this era of a digital divide, there is a need for the Government to focus on the digitalization and focus on the installation of modern technology so that the digital have nots also occupy the central position which is their right to acquire education, thus removing the impediment and bridging the gap between ends and means to achieve it.


Concluding Thoughts


Though the measure of lockdown was essential to curb the spread of COVID-19, the guidelines endorsed by W.H.O also envisaged that there is no cure to COVID-19, however physical distancing and good hygiene measures proved to be a factor to deter the spread of virus. The matters which need attention are the steps and policies which need to be adopted for the welfare of vulnerable sections of the society. As M.K. Gandhi too envisaged the fact that the Constitution of India should work in such a way that the needs and aspirations of people standing at the last in a queue are also fulfilled. The democratic picture of India is not only from a political view but also social view and hence the democratic society should be infused with the spirit of trinity namely liberty, equality, and fraternity.


Endnotes


[1] Unni Krishnan JP v. State of AP (1993) AIR 2178

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