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A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions for declaration of a financial emergency under Article 360 of the Constitution on account of the nationwide lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The petition moved by Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC) seeks the imposition of financial emergency in light of the prevalent conditions in the country.
Calling the actions taken by states and local authorities "arbitrary", the petitioner has stated that the prayer is being made keeping in view the need for maintenance of rule of law in the country. It is stated that on account of the nationwide lockdown, several fundamental rights of the people have been curtailed. These include the right to move freely.
Owing to the lockdown and closure of courts, the fundamental right to justice is also hampered, the plea contends. It is added that the lockdown would require a declaration of Emergency and cannot be done merely by invoking the Disaster Management Act of 2005.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the complete nation-wide lockdown on Tuesday, March 24 for a period of three weeks. Despite the same, various localwlae enforcement authorities continue to pass orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) "in the guise of orders issued by the Central Government which amounts to constitutional fraud", it is argued.
The divergence in steps taken by different authorities is leading to a situation of confusion and lawlessness, the petition states. CASC further contends that the same cannot be a solution for curbing the spread of a global pandemic such as the novel Coronavirus.
The lockdown will also bring the economy to a standstill and depsite relief packages announced, several steps will be required to be taken to revive the economy In the interim, the plea states.
On these grounds, CASC has urged the Supreme Court to pass orders for:
i) necessary directions for suspension of collection of utility bills (Electricity, Water, Gas, Telephone, Internet) and EMIs payments liable to be paid during Lockdown period ;
ii) Direct the State police and local authorities to strictly comply with home ministry instructions so that essential services are not disrupted;
A request for taking up the matter for urgent hearing via video conferencing is also made.
The PIL has been filed through Advocate Virag Gupta.