The Centre informed the Supreme Court on Thursday that its guidelines do not contain any instructions regarding affixing posters and signages outside the homes of COVID-19 patients and there cannot be any stigma attached to it.
The government said this before a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan which reserved order on a plea seeking directions to do away with the practice of pasting posters outside the homes of those infected by coronavirus.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta referred to the affidavit filed in the apex court by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and told the bench, also comprising Justices R S Reddy and M R Shah, that the guidelines do not require any such affixation of posters.
“The Central government guidelines do not require this,” he said, adding, “There cannot be any stigmatic impact”.
The bench asked Mehta whether the Centre can issue an advisory that this should not be done.
To this, Mehta said the central government has already done this.
“We will close it. Heard. Judgement reserved,” the bench said.
The counsel appearing for the petitioner told the bench that there are no such instructions in the guidelines to affix posters outside the home of those found COVID positive but the “reality is very different”.
“Posters are also affixed with names of COVID positive patients on it,” the counsel said.
“There should be some positive directions in this regard either from this court or the Central government. After Delhi, some states like Punjab and Odisha have stopped this. This practice should stop once and for all,” the lawyer said.
While hearing the matter on December 1, the top court had observed that once posters or signages are pasted outside the homes of COVID patients, the people affected are treated as "untouchables", reflecting a different "ground reality".
In its affidavit, the ministry has said that “its guidelines do not contain any instructions or guidance regarding affixing of posters or other signage outside the residences of those found COVID positive”.
Mehta had earlier told the bench that the Centre has not prescribed this practice and some states might be pursuing it on their own to prevent the spread of the virus.
The apex court had earlier asked the Centre to consider issuing guidelines to do away with practice of pasting posters outside the homes of COVID-19 patients.
It had directed so without issuing any formal notice to the Centre on one Kush Kalra's plea seeking framing of guidelines in this regard.
In its affidavit, the ministry has said that all states have been intimated to this effect that the MoHFW has not issued any such guideline to identify COVID-19 patients.
“The Central government, through MoHFW has already communicated to the Additional Chief Secretaries ...secretaries (Health) of all the states and UTs pointing it out that the MoHFW guidelines do not contain any instructions or guidance regarding affixing of posters or other signage outside the residences of those found COVID-19 positive,” the affidavit said.
On November 3, the Delhi government had told the high court that it has instructed all its officials not to paste posters outside homes of COVID-19 positive persons or those in home isolation; and the ones pasted have been ordered to be removed.
Kalra, in his plea before the high court, had contended that names of persons who tested positive for COVID-19 were being freely circulated to the Resident Welfare Associations and on WhatsApp groups and this was "leading to stigmatisation and drawing of unnecessary attention".