April 20, 2020.
By Sharvari Lohakare.
On Sunday, practicing advocate of Delhi, Pawan Prakash Pathak and a final year law student of Campus Law Centre, Delhi Abhijeet have filed a PIL before the Supreme Court raising concerns over the persistent demand for rent by the landlords from their student/ labour class tenants during the lockdown. The plea has been filed seeking enforcement of the Centre’s advisory restraining all landlords from forcing labours and students to vacate their premises in case they do not pay the rent during the lockdown period.
It was pointed out by the petitioners that even though the centre has issued an advisory, many incidents were reported where landlords forced the labour class / student tenants to check out of the premises and threatened them to throw out of the rented property.
The petitioners submitted that many metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kota, and Chennai are student hubs and consist of mass population constituted by labour class and students. The labour class belong to lower income group and the entire class is suffering major accommodation issues as the lockdown is extended till 3rd May, 2020, cutting their source of income. They are totally dependent on local area fair price shops and other NGO help for food and survival for their families.
Regarding students, many of them live in private PG facilities across the city and for food they depend upon private mess or meals provided by the PG owners. The food bill is fixed per month and is included in the annual or monthly rent. However, during lockdown PG owners are neglecting their duties and not providing food to stranded students who couldn’t go to their respective homes. Also other mess and restaurant facilities are unavailable due to the lockdown. The PG owners are not providing the meals but still demanding the same rent which they normally charge when they provide the meal to the students.
In the above mentioned context the petitioners submitted that the parents of the students are self employed and because of the pandemic there is a dent in their incomes too. The unreasonable demand by the landlords would aggravate the situation and would lead to undue frustration, harassment and embarrassment of students and their parents.
Considering the depth of the issue, the plea noted that the students and the labour class are living under constant fear and depression. The theory of opportunity cost of money applied, only one thing can be done. Either one can pay the rent out of the same amount or one can buy essential ration/food for family during such a difficult financial crisis.
The petitioners have sought strict enforcement of the Government advisory for restraining demand of rent from students and labours asserting the enforcement of Fundamental right to life of students and labours under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The said advisory was issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs last month under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.