Supreme Court today disposed of an application seeking directions for nationwide acquisition and conversion of hotels, resorts, guesthouses etc. to shelter homes, quarantine centers and isolation wards by dismissing it.
Justices L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta while taking a harsh view while hearing the petition said that, “Millions of people are coming with millions of ideas and we cannot entertain everyone”.
Solicitor General Mr. Tushar Mehta said that,” Government has already started the process of acquisition in some areas where it is required”
The intervention application was filed in a PIL moved by Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava seeking intervention of the Court to ensure access of necessities to migrant workers attempting to walk back to their villages from cities owing to nationwide lockdown.
The applicant while indicating towards the need for immediate use of facilities in existence stated that authorities shall save time, money and effort by acquiring and converting self-sufficient premises as they are already equipped with essential things like electricity backup, beds, washrooms, water supply, kitchens, ventilation, lift, manpower etc.
The applicant substantiated his reason for “urgency” by stating that since there has been an exponential rise in Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, the time is sensitive” and “losing time is a very heavy price to pay for an unforeseen but likely crisis which is pacing towards India.”
The application stated that “Governments across the country are in process of spending huge amounts on acquiring stadiums, railway coaches and converting them into quarantine facilities which may not be necessary, before exhausting self-contained accommodations which have ready facilities available already”
Further in application it was contended that the said action emanates from Section 65 of the Disaster Management Act & Epidemic Disease Act, 1857 whereby the concerned authorities can use “available resources” to the optimum before resorting to creating resources.
Section 65 of the Act empowers authorities to acquire properties in view of epidemic and use it for whatever the committee deems fit.
Applicant, in light of the above, contended that stadiums, coaches etc. cannot match or be equated with sanitation and hygiene levels offered by the self-contained accommodations, which are required to be maintained especially keeping in mind the contagiousness and biological properties of Covid-19 and that there will be constant water and electricity supply in these accommodations.
Also, in terms of the application drawn by Mithu Jain AOR, Arjun Syal and Vidisha Kumar, preference to these premises would save public exchequers money , which is currently being spent in building makeshift arrangements, most of which have poor hygiene and sanitation.
-India Legal Bureau