Detaining Persons Beyond Requisite COVID-19 Quarantine Period in Quarantine Centres is Violative of Article 21: Allahabad High Court

Ishaan Seth

The Allahabad High Court has recently directed the State Government to ensure that the persons who have completed their quarantine period are released from Quarantine Centers, provided they have been tested negative and that there is no legal impediment to releasing them.

The direction was passed by Justices Shashi KantGupta and Saurabh Shyam Shamshery, who observed that many persons, including migrant workers, were quarantined at different places in the State owing to the prevailing COVID-19 outbreak.

However, keeping them at quarantine centers against their wishes even after the completion of their quarantine period would be a gross violation of Article 21, the Court cautioned.

The Court also directed the Chief Secretary, State of Uttar Pradesh to set up a three-member committee in every district to ensure smoother and more effective functioning of the Quarantine Centers.

The Bench was dealing with a letter-PIL moved by Advocate Shaad Anwar seeking the release of the members of the Tablighi Jamat, who were quarantined after they returned from Delhi to the State on March 5.

Appearing for the State, Additional Advocate General Manish Goyal apprised the Court that a total number of 3,001 Indians, along with 325 foreigners, who had attended the Tablighi Jamat meet were quarantined. It was further informed that all 3,001 Indian members of Tablighi Jamat had been released after completing their mandatory quarantine period.

It was added, however, that 21 members released from the quarantine centre had been detained in jail.

The State provided a detailed chart in the matter, asserting that none of the members of the Tablighi Jamat, who were Indians, are presently under detention in the quarantine centers as they all have already been released. Most of them have even returned to their respective States, barring few members who had made their own private arrangements for their stay, Goyal said.

This was disputed by the petitioner, who countered that the State had failed to provide the details of some Tablighi Jamat members are yet to be released despite completing their mandatory quarantine period.

However, the Court noted that the petitioner had failed to disclose the names of such unreleased Tablighi Jamat members. Therefore, it was opined that the Court had no reason to disbelieve the statement made on behalf of the state.

All the same, the Court added that it would be open to the petitioner to ventilate his grievances before the appropriate forum if he discovers later that some members of the Tablighi Jamat are still being detained in quarantine centers, despite completing the requisite period of quarantine.

With these directions, the Court proceeded to dispose of the matter.

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