COVID-19: OUR LEGAL RIGHTS IN QUARANTINE

As Covid-19 had been spread all over the world. The Governments of almost all the infected countries had given the orders of isolation and quarantines and with this also imposed a travel ban. Billions of people all around the world were subjected to such isolation and quarantine. Our nation India also imposed a lock down for the sake of our citizens which had extended several times. Many other countries like America, European countries as well as the creator of such disease China also imposed lockdown. Even number of infected people increased day by day in our country so what rights of an individual has been infringed during the period of lockdown, in this article author will be discussing in detail regarding individual’s rights.

Meaning of isolation and quarantine

The great council passed an act on medical isolation in the year 1377 known as ‘Trentino’ which means isolation period for 30 days. This act was passed when a dreadful disease plague destroyed the European countries. After this many countries adopted such acts. The term quarantine is derived from the Latin term ‘Quadraginta’. The term quarantine and isolation have been defined under Indian aircraft (public health) rules, 1954.

Isolation means the person who is infected with any kind of transferable disease will be put separate from the person who does not get Infected.
Quarantine defines the restrictions on the movement of people as well as separation on their movement so that it can prevent the people from getting infected.

Our rights in quarantine

The entire people who are in quarantine or maybe in isolation have the right to go against the same. The individuals have the right that their family members, friends, etc. can visit them but can’t touch them due to the spread of disease.

As in our country, the government of India has announced the lockdown so here one thing that came to my mind is that whether the government has such power and whether this is within the legal domain or not?
Another question comes to my mind is whether this is an infringement of the rights of people or fundamental rights?

So from my research methodology, I found that in the year 1990 a person was suffered or infected with the disease human immune efficiency virus so he was quarantined as per the norms of the Goa public health Act, and his service was also snatched from him. The Bombay high court held that such detention was an infringement of fundamental rights of a person but later held that there may be such circumstances where a person must be quarantined for the protection and health of the public and society as well. Therefore, if a person is quarantined and there is a justified reason behind the same then it will not be considered as the violation or infringement of the rights of such individual.

Further, we can conclude that although from such thing like quarantine of a person has many issues like the economic condition of the person has decreased, freedom of the person is somehow affected but yet the first and foremost thing which must be in the mind of people is public health, public safety which comes under the definition of public interest. The individual’s rights are in some way related or proportional to the public interest. Thus, it can be clearly stated that if any clashes are there in between the public interest and in individual’s rights then the former will prevail over the latter. The said comment is also given in the judgment of the Bombay high court.

If we talk more about our rights then we can say that although the federal and state government has rights provided to it by the constitution of quarantine and isolation still it has certain limits that are the basic structure and fundamental rights of the individuals should not be violated. The basic fundamental rights, which should not be violated are given under Article 21 of the Constitution of India that is no person shall be denied his life and liberty without due process of law.

At the time when such dreadful diseases were spread in the whole country then the Constitution allows that if any right of people’s normal life is getting violated then the same can happen without any further hindrance because otherwise, the lives of almost all the people would be in danger. But yes, we can say that if there is any unjustified reason behind the isolation and quarantine of the individual then it will be considered arbitrary and the government is not allowed to do the same. The person who is in an isolation cannot be released until he cures of the same, but he has the right to ask for his basic requirements.

Now if we say that a person is quarantined but it is not yet clear that from which disease, he is infected or suffered. Then again, the question arises about their rights. So, it must be like this whether it is clear or not that what kind of disease an individual is having but he must be living with dignity because as per article 21 it is his fundamental right.

Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India states:

“14. Equality before law—The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”
“21. Protection of life and personal liberty—No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.”

Under the said articles there is no word like due process of law or human dignity so it is nothing but the interpretation of the judgment which interprets the terms of this article and introduced the term life with human dignity as given under Article 21. Our Constitution provides that all the citizens of India must be provided with equal opportunity in all matters and there should not be discrimination regarding caste, religion, etc. It means that all individuals will be treated equally in the eye of the law.

Under quarantine an individual may have the following rights:

When a person is quarantined then if he feels infected from the disease coronavirus, he has the right to be tested for corona even in a quarantine position as per the rules and regulations.
Suppose a person is in a state where there is no cleanliness and at the same time the government gives the order of quarantine and isolation then that person can ask and he has the right to be live in a hygienic place.

If a person is being quarantined, then he may have the right not to be denounced.
The quarantined person has the right to have a proper washroom attached to the toilet and all other basic things which are required for a person to live with dignity and comfort.
As it is stated under the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court that prisoners cannot be handcuffed by the police authorities unless and until there is the proper and justified reason behind the same likewise the quarantined person can also not be forced to have a mark of voting ink in their hand.

A person who is quarantined at home cannot be compelled or forced to have Mark of voting ink in his hand and with this, he cannot be checked by other officials as well.

If a person is not infected by coronavirus then he has the right to be tested by the medical authorities within 6 days.
If a person is infected with a disease like a coronavirus, that person has the right to live in a separate room that means in isolation.
A person has the right to live in a separate room as per his or her age because if a person is highly aged he won’t be able to get a strong immune system and therefore he would be infected for more days and if so done then it may be dangerous for others and their lives as well.
Now I can also conclude that the term quarantine and isolation somehow restrict the person from his fundamental right as provided under Article 19(1)(b) which talks about the freedom of movement within the country as well as outside the country for the citizens of India only as provided under the constitution of India.

Another question that arises in my mind is whether the quarantine violates the right to privacy or not? Before dealing with the same, we have to determine that whether it is a fundamental right or not? So, the answer is yes, it is a fundamental right as stated in the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court that is KS Puttuswamy v. Union of India.

According to my point of view, the list of quarantine violates the right to privacy of an individual in three ways. First, without the consent of the related individual, if any information regarding him is addressed to anyone, second if any person gives any information to the state as per the norms in the airport and if any information regarding the same is leaked then it would be the violation of the right to privacy, third is that if any information regarding the stigma, etc. is leaked then it would also be considered as the violation of the right to privacy.

Who can impose quarantine?

The constitution provides the power to all three governments that it can impose quarantine for protection of the citizens of the country but with this, it is also a stated fact that the federal and the State government cannot deny any person from his life, freedom, without due process of law as mentioned under Article 21 of the Indian constitution. Quarantine may be imposed on an individual, group, etc.
The infected people of the state can be quarantined by the State authorities within their border. As same, the infected people of local areas can also be quarantined by their authorities of villages. The biggest power is in the hand of the federal government that to is related to restrictions regarding such dreadful diseases like coronavirus from abroad. The centers for disease control and prevention have also provided authority to prevent the person infected from such disease especially those who travel from foreign countries. It also has the authority to give orders of quarantine and isolation. When the situation of state emergency arises which make certain restrictions on schools, businesses, etc. then it may affect the rights of the citizens.
Does the government have the power to impose orders of quarantine against the will of someone?

The answer to this question is of course yes because the national conference of State Legislature explains “every state, the District and the most territories have the laws which can authorize quarantine and isolation.”

In a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court, it was held by judges that the government can impose orders of quarantine and isolation against people’s will if they are infected with any kind of dreadful and transferable disease because it may be against the security and protection of other citizens. (Addington v. Texas, 1979).

Punishment on violation of such order

Disobeying any reasonable order of the government is punishable almost all over the world. In India also such an act will be punishable. In our country, if any person violates any order or any law passed by government or parliament respectively would be punishable. If any person does not follow the isolation and quarantine order of the government then that person will be punishable under Section 271 of the Indian penal code, 1860 which provides imprisonment which may increase up to six months and can be of either description or with fine or with both.

If any person doesn’t make any kind of attention towards such disease which can spread would be punished under Section 269 and 270 of Indian penal code, 1860 which also provides the same punishment as under Section 271 of Indian penal code and imprisonment which may increase up to 2 years or fine or with both respectively.
Any person who does not follow the rules and laws regarding sneezing coughing fever etc. will also be punishable under Section 270 of the Indian penal code. These are the laws enforced in India that provide the power to the government both state as well as federal that they can take certain steps and make reasonable restrictions to prevent any dreadful disease like covid-19.

When such circumstances are there that it can harm the whole country then the government has also the option to give the orders under Section 144 of the code of criminal procedure,1973 which provides the restrictions on public gathering and anyone who does not follow such order would be punishable under Section 188 of Indian penal code, 1860. The government has the power provided under the seventh schedule of the constitution regarding public health and safety any violation of the same would be punishable under Section 188 of the Indian penal code, 1860.

Comparison with other countries

As on the violation of quarantine orders of the government, in India, the above punishment is provided to the person who commits such an offense. The other countries like America, North Korea, and Singapore, etc. are also not lacking the power to provide punishment for the violation of the same. China is also one of the countries which impose the toughest punishment for such an offense.

The citizens of Singapore also get the punishment of jail or of fine on violation of quarantine orders as per the norms of the country.
The government of Saudi Arabia imposes a penalty of around 5 lakh riyals on those who do not give information regarding their health and traveling.
In America, the individuals who don’t follow the quarantine orders must pay a fine, against him criminal charges can also take place and imprisonment can also be done. “According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, federal, state, or local public health orders may be issued to enforce isolation, quarantine, or conditional release.”
The countries like North Korea applies the military laws on the quarantine order for such dangerous disease like coronavirus.
In Hong Kong, the people who do not follow the orders of isolation and quarantine also got the toughest punishment either of fine or imprisonment.

Role of epidemic diseases acts in solving pandemic disease.
This act was introduced in the year 1897. The said act has only 4 provisions. This act provides measures regarding epidemic diseases such as covid-19 to prevent the spread of disease and to protect the lives of the citizens. This act provides power to both central as well as the state government to take certain measures to defeat such disease. This act is the main legislation for the prevention and protection from a dreadful disease like coronavirus.

Conclusion

At last, I would request all the citizens of India as well as the people of the entire world that if we want our rights we should also respect our duties. This is the time when India needs the unity of all the citizens as our country has a tag of unity in diversity.
If all the citizens will be safe, then in the future also we will be able to protect our rights as provided under Part III of the Constitution of India. This is the time when we must understand that what the government is trying to say and what they want from their citizens as they are our Parens Patria.

It is the duty as well as the responsibility of the government to protect the lives and health of the citizens. For them, it is the first and foremost thing and it is the citizen’s duty and morality that they follow the orders of government. We all have to accept and promote the orders of the government for our safety as well as for our lives. We have to maintain social distancing, should wash hands, and make the environment clean. We should keep ourselves inside the home and be quarantined until such worst time does not finish.

AUTHOR:

ANAMIKA GUPTA
Banasthali Vidyapith