IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT MADRAS
(Special Original Jurisdiction)
W.P. No. of 2020
- United Labour Federation,
Represented by its President,
4th floor, CJ Complex,
149,Thambu Chetty Street,
Chennai 600001. …Petitioner
- The State of Tamil Nadu,
Rep. by its Chief Secretary,
Fort St. George,
Chennai – 600 009.
- Union of India
Ministry of Home Affairs,
AFFIDAVIT FILED ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER
I , Mr. K. Mariyappan, son of Kasi M. , aged about 54 years having office at 4th floor, CJ Complex, 149,Thambu Chetty Street, Chennai 600001, do hereby solemnly affirm and sincerely state as follows:
- I am the President of the Petitioner Union and as such am well acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case and the contents of this affidavit are true to the best of my knowledge and belief.
- The petitioner union herein is a registered trade union bearing Registration Number 2657/CNI with its registered office at the address mentioned in the causes title hereinabove. The Petitioner Union represents workers in several industries apart from sanitary workers employed by the Corporation of Chennai. The Petitioner Union also has considerable membership of workers employed in the automobile component manufacturing units in Sriperumbudur.
- I submit that presently the entire country of India has been on a lockdown since 24.03.2020 owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. The lockdown closes all business, factories and other establishments with a few exceptions such as supply of essential commodities, hospitals etc as per Order No. 40-3/2020 dated 24.03.2020 issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and similarly the G.O.(Ms) No.152 issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Department, of Government of Tamil-Nadu reiterated the same. It is submitted that originally the nationwide lockdown was to have been lifted on 14.04.2020 however since Covid-19 is still widely prevalent, the lockdown has been extended until 4/05/2020.
- The Government of India Ministry of Home Affairs have released another set of guidelines vide order No.40-3/2020-DM-I(A) to be taken by the various Ministries, Departments of the Government of India as well as by the States and Union Territories. This order has also provided for an exception for transport of essential and non-essential goods both intra as well as inter-state. This exception was not found in the earlier orders. The relevant clause is extracted below:-
“6. All transport services- air, rail roadways -will remain suspended
a. Transport of essential goods;
b. Fire, law and order and emergency services;
c. Operations of Railways, Airports and Seaports for cargo movement, relief and evacuation and their related operational organisations.
d. Inter-State movement of good/cargo for inland and exports.
e. Cross land border movement of essential goods including petroleum products and LPG, food products, medical supplies.
f. Intra and Inter-state movement of harvesting and sowing related machines like combined harvester and other agriculture/horticulture implements.
G, Transit arrangements for foreign national(s) in India. (as per attached SOP)”
- The Petitioner submits that the onus to ensure that the lockdown measures, social distancing and other practices is placed upon the respective organizations/establishments and the District Authorities. The relevant portion is extracted below.
“Note: As specified in the lockdown measures social distancing and proper hygiene practices must be ensured in each of the above activities. It will be the responsibility of the head of the organisation/establishment to ensure compliance of such norms. The district authorities will ensure strict enforcement.”
- It is submitted that at present Tamil Nadu has around 1267 number of people infected with Covid-19. The State of Tamil Nadu has indeed managed the containment of the virus effectively and the number of new cases reported is reducing rapidly. The Petitioner submits that the Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs though granting an exception for inter-state transport of commodities has not given a standard operating procedure or guidelines, safety protocols etc. to be followed by the persons transporting the goods, who will be moving from state to state. This is indeed a matter of grave concern to the public at large since this relaxation, if not implemented with the required standard of care will result once again in a spread of the Covid-19 virus at an alarming rate. The issue involved in the writ petition is to ensure that the State of Tamil Nadu will not enter the next stage of community transmission of Covid-19. Therefore, the matter pertains to the right to life and liberty of the citizens of the State of Tamil Nadu. The Respondents herein have a public and statutory duty to ensure that relaxing the rigours of the lockdown is accompanied by stringent safeguards, to ensure that the State of Tamil Nadu does not enter the stage of community transmission and more particularly that the commendable good work done by the State of Tamil Nadu hitherto is not undone.
- It is submitted that the State of Tamil Nadu which at present has only 1267 cases, may in the absence of a formulated safety protocol suddenly see an increase of infections if unscreened and unchecked transport of cargo is allowed into its borders. It is submitted that the Respondent ought to ensure that a planned strategy is adopted to ensure smooth passage of cargo into the state, as well as applying standard safety measures without unduly holding up of truck/lorry traffic on the National and State Highways and in the Ghat Roads. Indeed there ought to be adequate protocols in place to ensure that Trucks, lorries carrying cargo entering the state be disinfected as well as a requirement of medical certificate for the driver and other persons involved in the transport of goods showing that they have tested negative for Covid-19, wearing of masks, gloves etc. amongst other measures to ensure the safety of all persons involved. Since the loading and un-loading of the goods in most districts are not mechanised there indeed would be large scale human interaction in this process. Therefore implementation of the above safety and preventive measures is paramount. Since the onus is placed on the District authorities to maintain social distancing and other safety measures, the Respondents indeed have a duty to lay out an action plan in this regard.
- I submit that the above Writ Petition is filed in public interest based upon the Petitioner’s own study of the facts and prevailing circumstances. Further the Petitioner has nothing to gain personally from the present Public Interest Litigation. The Petitioner has sought no financial help from anyone to pursue this litigation. The Petitioner’s bona fides are clear and cannot be questioned, since the Petitioner only seeks to prevent and protect the citizens of Tamil Nadu from a potential outbreak that will occur should the Inter-State transport of commodities take place in the absence of adequate guidelines, protocols and preventive measures. The exposure to all persons operating godowns, ration shops etc will drastically increase and needless to mention all of this will soon result in large scale infection and the State of Tamil Nadu which is yet to face community transmission, may enter this stage if the transport of goods occur in the absence of necessary preventive measures and protocols. I state that I have no personal interest in the matter and I am filing this petition Pro Bono Publico. Due to the lockdown the Executive Committee of the Petitioner Union could not meet, therefore by circulation of e-mail the Executive Committee of the Petitioner Union resolved to file this writ petition in public interest.
- The Petitioner submits that the present Writ Petition is indeed urgent since it is been notified vide G.O. (Ms) No 193 issued by the Revenue and Disaster Management Department, Government of Tamil Nadu that from 20.04.2020 the Respondent has agreed to allow inter-state movement of goods into Tamil Nadu.
- The Petitioner having no other alternate or efficacious remedy is approaching this Hon’ble Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India seeking issuance of a Writ, order or Direction in the nature of a Writ of Mandamus directing the Respondents to frame a suitable action plan to ensure that movement of goods into Tamil Nadu does not result in an increase of Covid-19 infections, by putting in place adequate safety and preventive measures and ensure implementation of the same and pass such further or other orders in the interests of justice and circumstances of the case.
- The Petitioner submits that as of 20.05.2020 the transport of goods into Tamil Nadu will commence. In the absence of the Respondent putting in place any plan or protocol for preventing a potential outbreak the movement of goods into the State will definitely cause an increase of Covid-19 infections.
- In the above circumstances it is therefore prayed that this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to pass an order of Interim Injunction restraining the Respondents from permitting entry of goods from outside the State of Tamil Nadu into the State pending disposal of the present Writ Petition and pass such further or other orders as this Hon’ble Court deems fit and necessary in the interests of Justice.
In the above circumstances it is therefore prayed that this Hon’ble Court maybe pleased to pass a Writ, Order or Direction in the nature of a Writ of Mandamus directing the Respondents to frame a suitable action plan to ensure that movement of goods into Tamil Nadu does not result in an increase of Covid-19 infections by putting in place adequate safety and preventive measures and ensuring implementation of the same and pass such further or other orders in the interests of justice and circumstances of the case.
Solemnly affirm the contents of this Affidavit ]
At Chennai on this the 17th day of April 2020,]
and signed his name in my presence. ] ADVOCATE::MADRAS