Calling for curbs on ‘super spreader’ gatherings, Ashwani Kumar said, ‘The right to life stands at the pinnacle in the hierarchy of constitutional rights’
Former law minister Ashwani Kumar on Friday wrote to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and other judges of the top court to take note of the worsening coronavirus situation and issue “suitable directions” to Centre and State governments to ban political rallies, protest assemblies, and religious or festive congregations of more than 50 people.
Mr. Kumar, in his letter, asked the Supreme Court “to issue suitable directions suo-moto in the exercise of its plenary jurisdiction in pursuance of Article 21 of the Constitution”.
Noting that the daily cases of infection had crossed 2 lakh, Mr. Kumar said, “It is officially acknowledged and medically confirmed that the life threatening surge in the number of Corona cases, which is highest in the world is substantially on account of a free run enjoyed by the super-spreading events including political rallies, religious congregations and festive events until the situation is under control.”
The ongoing Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, has attracted a lot of criticism for being a potential super spreader event, and the ongoing election campaigns in West Bengal are also being seen as super spreaders.
The five-month-old protests by farmers against the farm laws at Delhi’s borders, and large-scale celebrations of festivals, have also added to concerns related to the pandemic.
The former law minister, who articulated his position as a citizen and an officer of the court, said that neither has any effective action been taken by Central and State governments to stop such gatherings nor have COVID-19 restrictions been strictly enforced.
Mr. Kumar also urged the court to direct the government to ban the export of vaccines and open up vaccination for all age groups.
He said that while there may be a case against a complete lockdown, it was essential to put a stop to mass gatherings that spread the virus.
“The nation expects the highest Court of the country, as the designated protector of fundamental rights, to exercise its extraordinary jurisdiction in these troubled times and vindicate its role as custodian of the constitutional conscience,” Mr. Kumar said, adding, “Clearly, as laid down by the Hon’ble Court in several of its celebrated pronouncements, the right to life stands at the pinnacle in the hierarchy of constitutional rights.”
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