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Students being forced to pay Rent by Landlords during COVID-19 Lockdown in violation of MHA Order: Plea in Supreme Court

Debayan Roy

A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court claiming that landlords are evicting students for failure to pay rent during the COVID-19 lockdown, in violation of the Union Home Ministry's order.

On March 29, the Ministry had released an order urging landlords not to evict tenants for failing to pay rent during the lockdown. The petition filed in the Supreme Court calls for the strict enforcement of this order.

The petitioner, Supreme Court lawyer Pawan Prakash Pathak, has submitted that the plea is being moved to enforce the fundamental rights of students at large, particularly the right to equality (Article 14) and the right to life as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Apart from Pathak, a final year student of Delhi University's Campus Law Centre, Abhijeet Kumar Pandey, is also a petitioner in the case. Pandey's father is disabled and he survives on the money sent by his parents. However, due to lockdown, there have been financial difficulties owing to which he declares himself to be "financially broken."

Citing a personal example, it is stated that Pandey had shared the MHA order dated March 29 with the landlord. However, the Court is informed that the landlords "are not ready to comply with that order and are willingly violating it and such is a case all over India."

More examples have been cited in the petition to persuade the Court that students who are not financially well-off are bearing the brunt of such non-adherence to the MHA order by landlords. The plea states,

"A second year student of campus law Centre, Delhi university is unable to pay his rent due to this lockdown as he used to earn his monthly expenses by taking home tuition but due to the lockdown, he is not getting any home tuition because of complete restrictions on movement of the people, and his father who is a marginal farmer is unable to send him money because of sharp fall in his income as he used to sell vegetables/grains in the local market but now everything has been stopped, which makes it difficult for him to arrange the money as he usually used to send."

In this regard, the plea also highlights the plight of students living as paying guests, where they were being provided with meals. However, ever since the lockdown began, such PG students are not being given meals due to restrictions on the entry of cooks, while still being forced to cough up the PG rent, the petition submits.

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