Centre For Accountability And Systemic Change (CASC) has filed a petition in Supreme Court for direction to Ministry Of Home Affairs/Central Government to declare national financial emergency in the Country in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Relevant text of the Petition is as follows:-
MOST RESPECTFULLY SHOWETH:
1. Writ Petition in public interest under Article 32 of the Constitution of India seeking directions for notification of financial emergency under Article 360 of the Constitution to safeguard the Rule of Law in India, which is being threatened by arbitrary actions of various authorities during COVID-19 epidemic.
2. That, Petitioner is a think tank working towards governance and judicial reforms. It has represented as well as filed Writ Petition before this Hon’ble Court seeking usage of double sided pages, which has now been ordered by the Hon’ble Court and many High Courts. The Petitioner organization has assisted this Hon’ble Court in the matter of live streaming of proceedings. The Petitioner has also published several research books such as “Ayodhya’s Ram Temple in Courts”, “Election on the Roads” and “Rape Laws and Death Penalty” which highlight several important aspects of Constitutional jurisprudence and judicial reforms. The Petitioner organization has also started a campaign on social media about Fundamental Duties and requirement of the citizenry to commit to the lockdown. The Petitioner organisation also sought the its impleadment in Suo Motu Writ Petition (C) 1/2020 regarding release of undertrial prisoners from jails. The Petitioner organization is registered under the Indian Trusts Act, 1882 with Reg. 118 of 2018-19, The Registered Office of the Petitioner organization is at 104, Oriental House, 20, Yusuf Sarai Community Centre, New Delhi-49. The PAN Card No. of Petitioner organization is AACTC2555N. The Email ID of the Petitioner organization is [email protected] and the Telephone Number is 9999256930.
3. That the Respondent No. 1 Ministry of Home Affairs through Home Secretary who is responsible for law and order and has issued the Order by which 21 days national lockdown restrictions have been imposed across all country. It is submitted that the Respondent is necessary party to the
4. That, the Petitioner has no personal interest in the litigation and is not guided by self-gain or for gain of any other person/institution/body and that there is no motive other than public interest and is bringing the instant issue to the attention of this Hon’ble Court in the wider interest of people at large, that is, in bona fide public interest which is clear from the facts of the
5. That there is no civil, criminal or revenue litigation, involving the Petitioner, which could have a legal nexus with the issues invoked in the present Public Interest Litigation.
6. That the cause of action for the present petition arose when the Respondent its Order dated 24.03.2020 and also the addendum dated 25.03.2020 under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. The Petitioner has not made any representation to any government authority considering the extreme urgency in the matter.
7. That the Annexure P-1 to Annexure P-4 submitted along with the Writ Petition are true copy of their respective original.
8. That, no other petition arising out of the same cause of action has been filed by the Petitioner before this honourable court or any other
9. That, the brief facts giving rise to the instant petition are as follows: –
10. That the Constitution of India was fully notified on 26 January 1950. Amongst the other provisions of the Constitution, Article 360 detailed Financial
11. That the novel coronavirus, also called COVID-19 originated in China in 2019. Over a period of time, it has affected over almost all countries in the world, including India.
12. That the first case of COVID-19 is said to be detected in India on 30 January 2020. After that, there has been a steady surge in number persons affected by the
13. To counter the pandemic, the Government of India as well as different State Governments took different steps, starting from February and early March 2020. Such steps include action under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and also the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
14. That in Delhi, the Government used the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 on 03.2020.
True Copy of Delhi Police Order dated 22.03.2020 is attached herewith as ANNEXURE P-1
15. That to control the pandemic, the Hon’ble Prime Minister called for a Janta Curfew on 22.03.2020. As the Janta Curfew ended, the Delhi Police issued orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,
True Copy of Delhi Police Order dated 22.03.2020 is attached herewith as ANNEXURE P-2
16. That on 24.03.2020, the Hon’ble Prime Minister addressed the nation at 8 PM and announced a country wise lockdown for 21 days. This announcement was given effect to by a Order dated 24.03.2020 by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The said Order has been also been modified by addendum dated 03.2020.
True Copy of Ministry of Home Affairs Order dated 24.03.2020 along with addendum is attached herewith as ANNEXURE P-3
17. That the above Order has been issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. It is submitted that the said Order imposes several restrictions and puts in place many mechanisms, which cannot be done by a mere Order the Ministry. Moreover, different States are continuing to take their own action under the Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
True Copy of chart showing few instances of Orders under Section 144 CrPC by District administration after lockdown. is attached herewith as ANNEXURE P-4.
18. That the World Health Organisation has stated that lockdown and social distancing is the effective way of combating COVID-19. The Petitioner is in support of the Lockdown and other steps taken by the Respondent, but the same ought to be backed by necessary constitutional action.
19. 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 COVID-19. Due to the lockdown, the economic activities have come to a standstill. Hence, it is most humbly submitted that Financial Emergency needs to be imposed in the country under Article 360 of the Constitution of
20. That the writ petition is based on the following grounds, which are without prejudice to each other-
A. Because considering the fact that the corporate sector and government department can work from home. However livelihood of most of the unorganized sector, which contributes 50 per cent to India’s GDP, is lost due to sudden lockdown. As a result, there is a threat to financial stability or credit of India. This in turn affects the right to life and personal liberty of general public which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India .
B. Because considering the fact that during this grave phase of national epidemic, all public is united and supporting the Lockdown. However in the similar manner various government authorities need unified command and not piecemeal and different actions. It is submitted that during emergency, the federal setup works as a unified mechanism to counter the challenge for better utilization of resources as being announced by the Finance Minister as financial package.
C. Because considering the fact that this may be the biggest emergency in independent India and it must be addressed as per Constitutional provisions and not by way of Cr.PC provisions of Section 144. This use of emergency provisions of Constitution is required not only to defeat the war against coronavirus but also in recovery of the Indian Economy after lockdown is over.
D. Because 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 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.
E. Because considering the fact that imposition of financial emergency is necessary for rule of law, which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution. Imposition of emergency will ensure that in future, a backdoor of large scale action through statutory measures would not be left open for police and authorities .
F. Because considering the fact that though essential services are ordered to be running, many difficulties are being reported across the country, be it the running of shops or delivery of newspaper.
G. Because considering the fact that many States have started using GPS and location tracking to track individuals, which impacts their personal liberty which is necessary to counter the pandemic, but cannot be done under authority of Sec 144 of the CrPC
H Because considering the fact that the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has stopped collecting toll across National highways in the country during the 21 days’ nationwide lockdown owing to the Covid-19 outbreak, but relief is not given to persons who may not be able to pay EMIs and essential services bills
I. Because considering the fact that the Finance Minister has extended the dates for filing for taxes. The Prime Minister has announced Rs. 15000 crore for health infrastructure and the Finance Minister has announced financial package of Rs. 1.70 Lakh crore which ought to be used in a systemic manner across country.
J. Because considering the fact that the Hon’ble Supreme Court invoked its constitutional authority to do complete justice to extend the limitation, as well as direct for release of prisoners on parole and bail. Similarly, the Government needs to utilize the extraordinary powers given in the Constitution to handle this situation. .
K. Because considering the fact that the Hon’ble Rajasthan High Court has directed that no person can come out for purchasing essential items without a mask. It is submitted that there are not enough masks for everyone in Rajasthan or the other parts of the country. Such arbitrary actions and orders can be avoided if Central Government and State Governments work together in unified manner.
L. Because considering the fact that India has about 5 crore registered labourers, while many more are unregistered. It is submitted that situation is so dire that thousands of daily wage labourers, who are now without a job, are walking for hundreds of kilometres to reach their destinations.
M. Because considering the fact that the Hon’ble Supreme Court in S. R. Bommai v. Union of India, (1994) 3 SCC 1 has said, “Article 360 envisages the Proclamation of financial emergency by the President when he is satisfied that a situation has arisen whereby the financial stability or credit of the country or of any part of the territory thereof is threatened. It declares that such Proclamation shall be laid before each House of Parliament and shall cease to operate at the expiration of two months unless it is approved by the resolutions of both Houses of Parliament.”
N. Because considering the fact that the Sarkaria Commission Report on Centre-State Relations states, “Financial Emergency is envisaged by Art. 360 of the Constitution. If the President is satisfied that a situation has arisen whereby the Financial stability or credit of India or of any part of its territory is threatened, he may proclamation a financial emergency. When such an emergency is in operation, the executive authority of the Union extends to the giving of directions to any State for the purpose of securing observance of canons of financial propriety.”
O. Because considering the fact that Dr. BR Ambedkar with respect to Financial Emergency had said the following in the Constituent Assembly, “this article more or less follows the pattern of what is called the National Recovery Act of the United States passed in the year 1930 or thereabouts, which gave the power to the President to make similar provisions in order to remove the difficulties, both economic and financial, that had Overtaken the American People as a result of the great depression from which they wore suffering. ”
P. Because considering the fact that Dr. KM Munshi has said the following the Constituent Assembly, “Every Government must satisfy the needs of the sovereign people of India. In a financial emergency there cannot be a greater privilege than that all financial affairs shall be controlled and directed from the Centre”.
Q. Because considering the fact that Pandit Hriday Nath Kunzuru had said the following in the Constituent Assembly, “article 360 refers to a situation in which the President is satisfied that the financial stability or credit of India or any part of it is threatened. In such cases, instructions can be issued to file provincial government regarding the canons of financial propriety that they should follow. This provision too can be used only in special circumstances. It is clear that it can be used only in an exceptional situation. ”
It is therefore prayed that this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to issue:
i. a writ in the nature of Mandamus thereby directing the Government to impose Financial Emergency through President of India under Article 360 of the Constitution; or
ii. any other writ, order or direction, which may be deemed fit and proper in the facts and circumstances of the case and in the interest of justice, may also be passed.
AND FOR THIS ACT OF KINDNESS THE PETITIONER SHALL EVER PRAY
True Copy of Order dated 12.03.2020 under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 is attached herewith as ANNEXURE P
MOST RESPECTFULLY SHOWETH:
1. That the Applicant has filed the accompanying Writ Petition seeking directions for imposition of Financial Emergency in view of COVID-19 epidemic in India. That the said Writ Petition has been filed by the Applicant Organization through its Trustee, Dr. Varun Kumar.
2. That the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a nation-wide lockdown for 21 days. This lockdown has taken a huge toll on the Indian Economy. As a result, crores of Indians have been rendered jobless and many are not even getting food. In fact, the country, which is supposed to function as a well oiled machine in a federal structure has been brought to a sudden halt.
3. That such huge financial meltdown across all sectors merits the imposition of Financial Emergency as well as certain interim measures That the Government has announced certain measures such as extending tax filing dates and easing ATM rules and other steps. However, there are crores of persons, who will not be in a position to pay their EMIs on different loans as well as public utility bills, such as electricity, water and gas bills.
4. That the Government has also announced the PM Gareeb Kalyan Yojna for Rs. 1,70,000 crore. Steps like automatically promoting students to the next class have also been taken by different states. However, there are still immense difficulties faced by public due to courts being closed and markets barely functionig.
5. That in such difficult times, when a person cannot even go out of the house, certain interim measures will go a long way in ensuring right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
It is therefore, humbly prayed that your Lordships may graciously be pleased to: –
a) Direct the Government to provide necessary directions for suspension of collection of utility bills (Electricity, Water, Gas, Telephone, Internet) and EMIs payments liable to be paid during Lockdown period ;
b) Direct the State police and local authorities to strictly comply with home ministry instructions so that essential services are not disrupted;
c) Pass any such order as this Hon’ble Court may deem fit and proper in the facts and circumstances of this case.
I, Dr. Varun Kumar, S/o Dr. Pradeep Kumar aged about 31 years, having office at 104, Oriental House, Yusuf Sarai New Delhi- 49, Trustee and Treasurer of the Petitioner organization in the above Petition do hereby appoint and retain Mr. Sachin Mittal, Advocate, Supreme Court of India to act and appear for me/us in the above Suit/Appeal/Petition and on my/our behalf to conduct and prosecute or defend or withdraw the same and all proceedings that may be taken in respect of any application connected with the same or any decree or order passed therein, including proceedings in taxation and application for Review, to file and obtain return of documents and to deposit and receive money on my/our behalf in the said Suit/Appeal/Petition and in application for Review and to represent me/us and to take all necessary steps on my/our behalf in the above matter. I/We agree to ratify all acts done by the aforesaid Advocate in pursuance of this Authority.