The National Lockdown was imposed in India, on 24th May 2020, by the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi. It is interesting to see that the imposition of the lockdown was not sourced from any law. It is not explicitly stated under any law that the government has the power to declare something of this nature[i]. In this blog, an effort has been made to explain that the lockdown was unconstitutional and preposterous.
The lockdown was unconstitutional
The terms lockdown or curfew have not been defined under any Indian law. It is submitted that the lockdown was being used to curtail individuals' basic rights in our country. Less than 4 hours were provided to 1.3 billion people to make arrangements for the ensuing lockdown. Many people were left unemployed due to the imposition, and the government did not provide any provision for minimum wage compensation. This resulted in a life filled with hunger and poverty for the poor, and hence their Right to life (Article 21), which also includes the Right to Livelihood and Right to Food, was violated.
Another shortcoming of the lockdown was that it violated an individual's Right to Movement, enshrined under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution. The government enforced Article 144 on the whole country without any intimation. People were imprisoned in their own homes, making it a direct violation of their fundamental right to move freely throughout the territory of India.
In the case of Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity V State of West Bengal[ii], the Supreme Court held that the government is obligated to provide adequate health facilities to India's citizens. The government failed to provide adequate health facilities such as free masks or sanitizers, which resulted in the black marketing of the same products. Therefore the poor and deprived lost their access to these products. The testing and other healthcare facilities, such as hospital hygiene, etc., were also in poor condition and needed immediate attention.
The researcher has reached the conclusion that the lockdown was morally preposterous and constitutionally egregious. It violated Article 19(2) [Right to Movement], Article 21 [Right to life] of the Indian Constitution. It can be concluded that the government failed to take care of the necessities required by individuals.
Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur
[i] COVID-19: The Law of the Lockdown Jurist, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/04/tanay-goyal-india-lockdown/
[ii] 1996 SCC (4) 37, Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity V State of West Bengal