Plea in SC to declare Financial Emergency during lockdown

New Delhi: A plea was moved in the Supreme Court on Thursday by think tank Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC) seeking directions for notification of financial emergency under the Constitution's Article 360 amid the ongoing 21-day nationwide lockdown.

The petition, filed through advocate Virag Gupta, contended that the general public is not having access to newspapers, which is happening for the first time after Independence, and the closure of courts affects the right to get justice. Therefore, this requires the imposition of emergency as per the Constitution, and not an order under Disaster Management Act, 2005. "Almost all the Fundamental Rights such as freedom of movement, most rights under Article 21 and various other fundamental rights have been practically suspended during this lockdown," said the plea.

Seeking urgent hearing through video conferencing in the apex court, the petition said it is the biggest emergency in independent India and it must be addressed as per constitutional provisions through unified command between Centre and state governments. This will be required not only to defeat coronavirus but also in the recovery of the Indian economy after the lockdown is over.

Seeking the declaration of financial emergency, the petitioner urged the apex court to issue directions for "suspension of collection of utility bills (Electricity, Water, Gas, Telephone, and Internet) and EMIs payments liable to be paid during Lockdown period".

The petition contended that divergence of steps taken by different authorities is causing confusion and lawlessness, which cannot be a solution to the coronavirus outbreak. Due to the lockdown, the economic activities have come to a standstill.

The petition further contended "even after the PM announced a country wise lockdown for 21 days for which orders were issued on 24.03.2020 by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the Disaster Management Act 2005, different states and police authorities are continuing to take their own action under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 in the guise of orders issued by the Central government which amounts to constitutional fraud."

The petition also urged the apex court to direct the state police and local authorities to strictly comply with the Home Ministry's instructions so that essential services are not disrupted.

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