Supreme Court orders Centre to ban use of disinfectant tunnels, chambers on humans

SC states that public authorities were using disinfectants, both chemical or organic on the human body, though there are various studies to the effect that it may be harmful to the health and the body.
Supreme Court orders Centre to ban use of disinfectant tunnels, chambers on humans
Representational Image: Sanitisation chamber outside Supreme Court

The Supreme Court, on Thursday, ordered the Central government to ban use of disinfectant tunnels involving spraying or fumigation of chemical /organic disinfectants on human beings noting that they were harmful to the human body.

A Justice Ashok Bhushan led bench also pulled up the central government for the legal vacuum with regard to spraying of such disinfectants and fumigation or use of Ultra Violet rays against the human body underscoring that mere advisories from the government in this regard were not sufficient.

The Bench, which also comprised Justices R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah, stated that there is a need for a "regulatory regime" to deal with disinfectant tunnels or chambers and the Central government cannot shirk responsibility by merely stating that the use of such chemicals and disinfectant tunnels is "not recommended".

Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India

"There are hosts of regulatory measures of radiation for use of UV rays with regard to food and other articles. We are of the view that for spraying disinfectant on human body, fumigation or use of UV rays against the human body, there has to be regulatory regime when Centre itself is of the view that such use is not recommended,"

the judgment said.

The ruling from the top court came on a plea seeking an immediate ban on the use, installation, production or advertisement of disinfectant tunnels set up to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The petitioner, Gurusimran Singh Narula, a final year student from Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law, IIT Kharagpur, had argued that the disinfectants that are said to prevent the spread of COVID-19, are, in fact, ineffective and expose people to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

The Central government, in its affidavit, had informed the Supreme Court that the guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has advised against the use of disinfectant tunnels and sprays for people as a measure against COVID-19.

The Centre had said that the guidelines and SOPs had enlisted various measures and protocols to be adopted for cleaning and sanitisation. Disinfectant fogging as a method to sanitize was not recommended in these guidelines for routine patient care areas or operation theatres as these disinfectants can be hazardous.

The top court made it clear in its judgment that such advisories were not sufficient and something more could have been done to remove the "cloud of uncertainty."

"When public authorities/ organizations were using disinfectants both chemical or organic on the human body and there are various studies to the effect that it may be harmful to the health and the body. Some more actions were required to remove the cloud of uncertainty and to regulate the use even if it was to either prevent such use or regulate the use so that health of citizens is amply protected,"

the apex court said.

The petitioner had approached the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on two occasions in the past. However, the advisory issued by the Ministry in April did not address the issue regarding use of such disinfectant chambers and tunnels. In fact, advisories promoting use of such chemical disinfectants were issued subsequently by two bodies, the plea said.

The top court has also asked Centre on Thursday to issue directions under the National Disaster Management Act to prevent "exposure of human being to artificial ultraviolet rays."

A period of one month has been given to the Centre to implement the ban.

The Court further held that provisions of Disaster Management Act including Section 10, 36 and other provisions "are not only provisions of empowerment but also cast a duty on different authorities to act in the best interest of the people to sub­serve the objects of the Act."

"When a statute confer power on authority and that power is to be exercised for the benefit of the people in general, the power is coupled with the duty," the judgment said.
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