The Madras High Court recently dismissed a writ petition seeking to reveal the identity of the COVID-19 affected persons.
Holding that the same may further aggravate the “social stigma” being attached to the victims of COVID-19 due to the disease’s infectious nature, a division bench comprising of Justice M. Sathyanarayanan and Justice M. Nirmal Kumar disposed of the petition.
“This Court can take judicial notice of the fact on account of the revealing of the identity of the person/persons, there would be definitely a social stigma and aspersions on account of the same…” the bench held.
Reliance was placed on the instructions issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on ‘Social Stigma Associated with COVID-19’, urging the citizenry to fend off such prejudices against the affected population.
The Petitioner had argued that if the identity of COVID patients is revealed, the same may enable others, who have come in contact with such persons, to Quarantine themselves and will thus aid in preventing the speared of the disease further.
“On account of the concealment of identity of persons, who developed infection, on account of COVID-19, there may be a possibility the said person may pass on the infection, to other persons and if they lack immune, it would definitely spread and there is every likelihood that they would spread the virus, to other persons. Therefore the petitioner prays for appropriate direction, directing the Government to publish the name of the persons, who are infected with COVID-19 in the website so that it may act as a warning for caution to the persons to keep away from him/them,” the Petitioner had argued.
Notwithstanding these arguments, the court held that the relief sought by the Petitioner could not be granted from a law and order point of view.
“The people are slowly becoming aware of the effect of COVID-19 virus and if the prayer sought for by the petitioner is granted, it would further lead to law and order and public order problem, apart from the social stigma, some times may lead to excommunication also,” the bench said.
Recently, the burial of a doctor who succumbed to a heart attack after contracting the COVID infection invited mass opposition, creating a law and order situation.
Commenting upon that incident the bench said,
“This Court can take judicial notice of the fact on account of the revealing of the identity of the person/persons, there would be definitely a social stigma and aspersions on account of the same and yesterday when a body of a Doctor, who died on account of COVID-19 complication, sought to be buried there was a law and order and public order problem, which resulted in attacking of ambulance driver, paramedical personnels as well as public servants and the mortal remains of the dead persons were compelled to be buried somewhere else.“
Pertinently, a division bench of the High Court took suo moto cognizance of the incident and issued notice to the state on the issue of the right to burial being guaranteed under Article 21.
Case Title: K. Narayanan v. Govt. of Tamil Nadu
Case No.: WP No. 7494/2020
Quorum: Justice M. Sathyanarayanan and Justice M. Nirmal Kumar
Appearance: Advocate S. Lakshmanasamy (for Petitioner); Government Pleader V. Jayaprakash Narayanan (for State)