The Delhi high court has held that home quarantine period for COVID-19 patients cannot be limited to the mandatory 14 days only as there is no certainty about the virus' virulence, gestation period or time taken for an infected person to manifest the symptoms.
Justice C Hari Shankar said that at a time when COVID-19 or coronavirus has left the global community "befuddled" and the administration here is "traversing uncharted territory", it needs to be given the requisite freedom or "play in the joints" to formulate and implement its policy to deal with the pandemic.
"The executive must, in such a circumstance, be afforded the requisite play in the joints, so as to formulate and implement its policy, as meaningfully and efficiently as possible. Absent any legal or constitutional infraction, courts have to be slow in subjecting executive action taken in context of COVID-19 crisis to searching judicial scrutiny," the court said.
"In this background, this court is unwilling to hold that in each and every case, the period of home quarantine must stand limited to 14 days and no more," it added.
The court held however that any person not displaying the coronavirus symptoms nor has tested positive for the disease, if quarantined for more than 14 days, can represent against it to the authorities who have to either give reasons for it or lift the restriction.
The court's observations and directions came while disposing of plea questioning the manner in which the authorities were implementing the quarantine guidelines as one of the 72 families, which had contact with a coronavirus infected pizza delivery person, was put in quarantine for over 30 days.
The order came on the petition by a photo-journalist, Amit Bhargava, who was put in quarantine from midnight of March 24-25, when he had first contact with the delivery person, till April 28 -- for a period of over 30 days as against the stipulated 14 days.
His lawyer, Shyel Trehan, had told the court there was no justification to put her client under quarantine of more than 14 days from April 14 as his first contact was on March 24-25 and he had not tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days from then.
The court said that "arithmetically and logically speaking" she had a point, however, the virus was "presently not known to subscribe to dictates either of arithmetic or of logic".