“It is very well quoted that there is only one thing certain in life and that is the uncertainty. Uncertainty is life’s way of saying that there are only a few things you can control. A similar kind of uncertainty which the whole world is facing is the outbreak of the coronavirus. No one ever imagined that one day, we all will be facing such an unexpected epidemic in our lives, but then again the uncertainty hits life and this time uncertainty is a part of life and everyone needs to face it.
To fight against this Covid-19 the whole world stands together in international solidarity and different governments, monarchies, etc. are taking various steps, in the form of imposing lockdown, social-distancing norms, and other precautionary measures. Today in India, the number of Covid-19 patients has risen to 56,000 and there are innumerable cases of deaths as well. Though, patients are also getting curved by taking precautionary measures, following the lockdown, etc. But one should never forget there are always two sides of a coin and some steps which are taken by the government impact one’s fundamental rights too.
Aung San Suu Kyi very well said that “Fundamental violations of human rights always lead to people feeling less and less human”. Thus, one should not violate human rights or fundamental rights. But this Covid-19 has impacted our fundamental rights to a large extent.
These are very unexpected times and there is no definite protocol to follow because the world has never experienced an incident of such a nature. The government is putting in a lot of effort and doing its best by imposing lockdown under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and Epidemic Disease Act, 1897. However, the government has also taken the recourse of section 144 of Crpc to impose measures required for the imposition of lockdown.
In democracies like India, the system works with proper checks and balances. But at this time when the parliament is not in session, the accountability of the government to its citizen is in threat. The judiciary is not able to function actively and by complete force as is not effective. So, the country is left with the executive who is not accountable and it is well known that accountability is the keystone to every democracy, without it, in case of absolute power, a country can’t function properly.
But this time it leaves us with the judiciary to keep an eye on the executive power and this lack of accountability has somewhere left us with the harsh impact of Covid-19 on fundamental rights. The two most important fundamental rights which are being violated are ‘Right to Equality’ and ‘Right to life and personal liberty’ which are Article 14 and 21 of the constitution respectively. The lock-down which is imposed is equal for all and is not discriminatory, but its impacts are indeed discriminatory. The impacts of this, the Right to live with dignity, and the Right to livelihood are also in threat today because of the nationwide lockdown.
The question here is that how this lockdown and some other steps taken by the government are impacting the precious fundamental rights. Just take into consideration, the fact of the work from home, the people who can afford the facilities or who can work from home come into a class of people who are socially and economically sound but the daily wage earners, the migrants, the exhibits are the ones who are generally suffering as they don’t have any work to do and also don’t have resources to have food, shelter, etc.
Daily a lot of wage earners are moving to distant kilometers to their homes because now they don’t have a single penny. So, in this way, this lockdown is unequal in its results and impacted the livelihood of these people. The imposition of curfews impacted the most vulnerable sections of society. Various states like Punjab, Delhi, and U.P acknowledged the fact of daily workers but it is their obligation of the state to mitigate the impact of there. The people living in rented homes are not able to earn, then how they could pay their rents. Guidelines are indeed passed in this regards but the implementation of the same is not enforced.
Not only Article 14 and 21 but Article 15 is also impacted which includes discrimination on the ground of class, which is occurring apparently. Due to this situation, women who are in an abusive relationship are more prone to the danger of domestic violence. Franca Fratini opined that “One take full account to maintain two fundamental rights – the right to security and privacy. We also come to hear about the Aarogya Setu application, which helps in the detection of Covid-19 patients but it requires the personal information of a person, the government publishes publically the name of that patient which is a violation of one’s Right to Privacy under Article 21.
Moreover, the Right to food is also getting violated to some extent. Rather the government is providing food but still the adequate PDS and lack of IDs. The prisoners’ rights to get adequate health checkups are also getting violated. The right of the employees to get a salary is also getting violated because they are not getting their complete salaries. The Right to freedom of movement is also under restriction, The Right to access information is violated, which directly violates one’s right under Article 19 (1)(a),i.e., freedom of speech and expression. There is no proper access to the legal recourses too.
As in matters of certain problems where one needs to go to the courts, due to their physical in operation, an ordinary person cannot go and doesn’t have proper knowledge regarding procedures through the e-courts. Thus, somewhere one’s access to justice and remedies is also in a threat. The freedom to form an association is also restricted. On the one hand, the government is not opening the local markets but on the other hand ordering to open the wine shops which are not a great step.
In the case of Consumer Education and Research Centre versus Union of India(1995 AIR 922), it was held that the Right to health is a fundamental right, but due to this epidemic, this right is also under threat, as there is no proper access to health facilities. It is very well said by Franklin D.Roosevelt that “We must recognize the fundamental rights of men.
There can be no true national life in our democracy unless we give unqualified recognition to freedom of religious worship and freedom of education”, but due to this pandemic the right to religion and education is also impacted because nowadays education is imparted through internet and e-mediums, the students who can afford this medium can have access to education but the children or students belonging to poor and backward areas cannot have access to education.
Thus, we can see Covid-19 has inherently impacted the fundamental rights. But the government should keep in mind the fundamental rights of the people and the restrictions imposed should not lead to violating these because humanity is protected when human rights are preserved.
This article is written by Priya Bishnoi and edited by Rupreet Kaur Dhariwal.