‘… You have to ensure that protesters follow COVID-19 protocols. Let them wear masks and then protest,” it says
The Delhi High Court on Wednesday expressed concern over a lack of adherence to COVID-19 appropriate norms by a large gathering of Afghan nationals protesting outside the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) office and seeking refugee status.
Justice Rekha Palli asked the Centre, the Delhi government and the police to coordinate and work out a solution so that the gathering does not act as a superspreader of COVID-19. The court said the situation could not be permitted to continue as the protestors could be seen sitting and standing next to each other without even wearing masks.
“We are also dealing with COVID-19. Look at the pictures. What if this could be a superspreader of COVID-19. You should ensure some protocol is there. Why are they not wearing masks?,” the court remarked.
“It is not the inconvenience only with which I am concerned. I am more concerned that it should not act as a superspreader of COVID-19 again. The city has barely coped with the second wave. You have to ensure that the protesters follow the COVID-19 protocols. Let them wear masks and then protest,” it said.
Petition from association
The court’s observation came while hearing a petition by the Vasant Vihar Welfare Association, which stated that the foreign nationals (refugees/ asylum seekers) have gathered outside the office of the UNHCR at B Block in Vasant Vihar since August 15, including lanes and parks adjoining it and the residents were facing difficulties due to this.
The court asked the Delhi government what it had done in pursuance to the Supreme Court’s direction to frame guidelines on the issue of the right to protest so as to ensure a balance between fundamental rights and the maintenance of law and order.
The association stated the residents were facing difficulties in commuting and going to markets for purchasing essential goods. It said the manner in which the foreign nationals were protesting sitting next to each other was likely to be a superspreader of COVID-19.
The petition also sought a direction to the Ministry of External Affairs to frame an appropriate policy for ensuring that such nuisance to the local residents does not occur on the account of foreign missions being in the vicinity of residential localities.
‘Not a normal situation’
Central government standing counsel Ajay Digpaul submitted that it was not a normal situation and the residents should have some humanitarian approach and these were international issues that could not be decided overnight as they have huge international consequences.
The Delhi government said there were around 500 protesters at the site and sufficient force had been deployed.
The petition said the area had turned into a protest site where people from all age groups, including children, were congregating. It added that putting children in a situation, especially where a third wave of COVID-19 was imminent and was predicted to affect children more severely, was extremely disastrous.
The court will hear the matter again on September 3.
News Source : www.thehindu.com