A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions for declaration of a financial emergency under Article 360 of the Constitution on account of the nationwide lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The petition moved by Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC) seeks the imposition of financial emergency in light of the prevalent conditions in the country as it cannot be managed as per Section 144 CrPC or notification under Disaster Management Act 2005 or provisions of Epidemic Disease Act 1897.
It was contended that the country is going through a pan-India epidemic. It requires unified strategy and actions by various State Governments in federal structure. This Epidemic is said to have come to India from foreign countries and it must be addressed jointly by whole nation without internal geographical restrictions.
Divergence of steps taken by different authorities are causing confusion and lawlessness in no way can be solution to a problem as grave as COVID19. Due to the lockdown, the economic activities have come to a standstill and it cannot be managed as per Section 144 CrPC or notification under Disaster Management Act 2005 or provisions of Epidemic Disease Act 1897.
It was further Contended that:
“almost all the fundamental right to freedom of movement, under Article 19 and 21 and various other fundamental rights have been practically suspended during this lockdown. The general public is not having 7 access to the newspapers, which may be happening for the first time in independent India. During this lockdown all courts are also closed, which is affecting the right to get justice by poor and marginalised people of India. It is submitted that this extraordinary situation requires the imposition of emergency as mandated in the Constitution. Handling this situation through Order under Disaster Management Act, 2005 and Section 144 CrPC may amount to constitutional fraud.”
On these grounds, CASC has urged the Supreme Court to pass orders for:
i) necessary directions for suspension of collection of utility bills (Electricity, Water, Gas, Telephone, Internet) and EMIs payments liable to be paid during Lockdown period ;
ii) Direct the State police and local authorities to strictly comply with home ministry instructions so that essential services are not disrupted;
iii) issuance of writ in the nature of Mandamus thereby directing the Government to impose Financial Emergency through President of India under Article 360 of the Constitution