Effects of Curfew on Right to life (Article 21)
Author: Mehak, University Institute of Legal Studies Punjab University, Chandigarh
In the case of M.Nagaraj v. UOI , a brief remark is made by the Justice S.H.Kapadia that fundamental rights are not given by the constitution, constitution just recognises the human rights which one holds by reason of fact that they are the members of human race.
In the famous case of West Virginia School of Education Board v. Barnett , it was held by the court that these rights are not subject to the vote of legislature. It creates, therefore, difference between the fundamental/human rights and statutory rights; as statutory rights are not absolute and subject to the limitations. Universal Declaration of Human rights under Section 3, 25(1) and Indian Constitution under Article 21 provide right to life. This is one of the paramount rights which provided to the human race. It is the duty of the government to protect these rights for its Citizen. However, the current scenario is just looking opposite. Right to life does not talk about mere animal existence, but a life with dignity.
On 24th March, 2020 government imposed national curfew under NDMA, 1876. Law is dynamic, as society changes with the passage of time. This act is so old that cannot be comply with the present situation. It merely deals with the challenges to control the outbreak of pandemic. Nowhere it is mentioned that what about those who don’t have source of livelihood, right to food and health. These are the serious and ground level issues which need to be resolved.
The imposition of NDMA, 1876 was not wrong action taken by the government of India, however, government has the responsibility to take care of citizens irrespective of their socio-economic level. The people who are suffering most in this lockdown are no one, but migrant workers or labour class. They don’t have fix remuneration and imposition of lockdown left them to die with starvation.
“Black letter methodology” is used in this research work.
Right to Livelihood:
Since the curfew was imposed without taking remedy measures, this right had been taken away from the people who belonged to socio economic weaker section, migrant workers or labour class. Even this weaker section is also the part of the population of India, or say major part of Indian population; so how could government ignore these people. To deny right to livelihood directly infringes the right to life of the people.
Application- It was held by the Supreme Court in the landmark judgment of Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation  (known as Pavement dwellers case), that “right to life” also included “right to livelihood”. However, court recognised that nobody could claim right to livelihood from opprobrious occupation.
Right to Health:
The pictures of suffering of the weaker section across the country are coming daily. They are neither able to return back home nor do they have money to protect themselves from the pandemic. They are forced to leave their homes without taking proper measures. Some people have reached their homes somehow with the help of others, those helping this section of society. However, the responsibility lies with the government to inform or provide measures to these workers before the imposition of curfew (implementation of Sec 144 of CrPC).
On the other hand, medical attendants also have the right to health. Merely that they are engaged in Medical profession, government cannot deny any demand related to the safety of medical staff. Similarly, government cannot deny safety to any department which is engaging at the frontline as well. To deny of meeting the demand will be lead to breach of right to health by the government.
Application- In the case of P.B.Khet Majdoor v. State of West Bengal , the apex court held that state is responsible to provide minimum standard of safety to fulfil the right to health. State, therefore, cannot deny its obligation due to less funds or financial constraints. As India is a welfare State, it should not be only to show but to work according the cornerstone of the Constitution.
Right to Food & Shelter:
Due to this pandemic, people don’t have the source of income. Many workers have been evicted from the houses on rents instead of the guidelines of the government. Those workers who were going independently to their places had been suffering since the imposition of curfew. They don’t have food or goods of basic necessities.
Application- In the case of Chameli Singh v. State of U.P., the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that right to shelter is one of the necessities and covered under Article 21. The duty lies on the State to help those workers whose rights have been infringed.
Right to Reputation:
Article 21 of the Constitution does not only provide right to life, but right to life with dignity and reputation. During this pandemic, we can see the treatment which is being given to labour class. If they don’t have money, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have respect. Many workers have been evicted from their residence places. Every human being has right to live one’s life with reputation and dignity.
Application- There is landmark case law Bandhua Mukhti Morcha v. UOI , in which apex court held that everyone has right to live one’s life free from exploitation and with dignity. We can conclude, therefore, that by denying right to reputation and dignity; they are creating chasm between the different sections of the society.
Right against Domestic Violence:
Due to the situation of lockdown, many women who were in abusive relationship have become victim of domestic violence. As judiciary is doing its work through virtual proceeding, there are highly chances of coercion and undue influence. Family Courts are adjourning the matter till the normalising of situation. Thus, parties will have to appear in Court physically, but as we don’t have any idea when the situation will become normal. It is harsh punishment to the females to live in those relationships. Henceforth, this pandemic has brought worst consequences on many lives.
To conclude the effects of curfew on Right to life, I am reached on the point that every step of government affects all the sections of the society. In the imposition of curfew, the interest of the weaker section was ignored. However, curfew was necessity of that hour, but State cannot take such steps which protect the life of wealthy class at the stake of weaker or labour class. State should have taken the measures before going ahead with such steps. For instance, government can issue notification to general public to return back to their native places. On the other hand, it was necessary to make check of proper utilisation of the funds which was given by the Centre government to the State government for rationing. It is, however, not a guarantee had our government done this, these rights would not have infringed. Still, there was higher chance to maintain the situation better.
- M. Nagaraj v. Union of India (AIR 2007 SC 71 at 81).
- West Virgnia State Board of Education v. Barnet (US 1942).
- Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation (AIR 1986 SC 180).
- P.B. Khet Majdoor Smiti v. State of West Bengal (AIR 1996 SC 2426).
- Chameli Singh v. State of U.P. (AIR 1996 SC 1051).
- Bandhua Mukhti Morcha v. Union of India (AIR 1984 SC 802).
Effects of Curfew on Right to life (Article 21) Effects of Curfew on Right to life (Article 21) Effects of Curfew on Right to life (Article 21)