Former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar has written to the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and other Supreme Court judges asking them to take "judicial notice of the extraordinary threat to human lives" following a devastating surge in the Corona cases and issue suitable directions accordingly.
Kumar referred to news reports to suggest 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…".
Kumar's plea to the top court comes on the heels of 2,34,692 fresh infections – the sharpest-ever daily spike registered in the country with over 2 lakh cases registered for the third straight day. India recorded 1,341 deaths—the highest ever since the onset of the COVID pandemic.
Super-Spreading events threat to human life: Plea in SC
Kumar, a senior advocate in the top court, sought the court's intervention to ban political rallies, protest assemblies, religious and festive congregations of more than 50 people until the situation is under control; ban the export of COVID vaccines; permit the import of vaccines after ensuring of their efficacy; make vaccines available to all age groups and; facilitate in-situ vaccination as far as possible but especially of the old and the infirm.
Kumar wrote to the apex court judges in the wake of the "gravity of threat to human life" the COVID pandemic posed. Kumar said almost 2000 people tested positive at the ongoing Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, which is just one instance of a "super-spreading event".
"Other instances include the election campaigns being held in different states, where political leaders have held massive rallies flouting COVID rules…Festivals have also been celebrated where there have been gatherings in huge numbers…,' Kumar said.
"Such events have contributed significantly to the resurgence of Corona cases throughout the country," the advocate said in his letter.
Despite the surge in the rise of cases, the Centre and State governments have not taken any "purposive and effective action" on a uniform basis to stop such gatherings. "There is laxity even in enforcing the limited restrictions announced by some of the State Governments from time to time," he said.
"While there may be a case against total lockdown in the country, there is absolutely no justification for permitting/condoning super spreading events that pose an unacceptable threat to human life in a negation of Article 21 of the Constitution," Kumar said.
Political Rallies, Religious festivals continue
Despite India breaking its own records in the surge in infection, election rallies in poll-bound states continue to attract thousands of people with COVID-safety norms taking a backseat. According to a report in The Times of India, there was a jump in the active caseload in three poll-bound states—West Bengal (448%), Tamil Nadu (309%), Kerala (111%)—over the fortnight ending April 13.
Reacting to the alarming rise in cases, the Election Commission on Friday issued a notice curtailing campaigns in the remaining phases. "No rallies, public meetings, street plays, nukkad sabhas, shall be allowed on any day during the days of campaign between 7 pm and 10 am wef 7 pm of 16.4.2021," the poll panel said in its order.
This morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued an appeal to the pilgrims that the third 'shahi snan' (holy dip) of the Kumbh Mela—which attracts millions of pilgrims—should be "symbolic". This, Modi said would boost the fight against the pandemic.
However, Modi's appeal comes even as two of the three 'shahi snans' have concluded in an already curtailed Maha Kumbh.