The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that States and Union Territories are not required to affix posters outside homes of patients who are covid positive unless there is a direction from a competent authority under the National Disaster Management Act, 2005.
Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah gave their decision on a plea filed by Kush Kalra who challenged the decision taken by various state governments under the National Disaster Management Act, 2005 to post stickers outside the homes of those who were in home isolation on account of being tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Posters lead to "stigmatization" of Covid positive people
During the hearing, the top court had observed that the practice adopted by the States or Union Territories of affixing posters was leading to "stigmatisation of such persons" as a result of which many were being treated as "untouchables".
The Centre in its affidavit filed on November 30 had submitted that such posters were only meant to ensure people from inadvertently entering homes of covid positive patients. "If a poster humiliates or stigmatises a person then it should be avoided. But if it warns a person from inadvertent entry then it is up to the State government," Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had said the Centre's behalf.
"The hard reality is that many such patients are treated like untouchable," Justice MR Shah said in response.
Disclosure of patient identity gross violation of privacy rights
In its plea, Kalra submitted that affixing such contentious posters affixed which acted as a mark of identification since it divulged names of such patients to housing societies' management and Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs), was a gross violation of a patients' rights.
Seeking to quash such directions, the plea stated that the Constitution did not and can never permit discrimination on the ground of illness and physical suffering. Public circulation of such names making them subject to scrutiny went against the ethos of living with dignity.
"Affixing posters outside their homes lead to their illness is being widely publicised amongst other residents of a colony or apartment complex as well as household staff of neighbours, vendors, passers-by and other unrelated persons," the plea said.
"Names of people being written on posters and RWA has WhatsApp texts going around with names of such people who are covid positive. There should be a positive direction from the government and the court which will end this practice," said Advocate Chinoy Sharma, representing Kalra had said.