April 12: Interesting cases have come up for hearing in high courts and the Supreme Court since the lockdown was imposed on March 25 to check the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Here are some of them:

‘Animals have the right to life’: Kerala resident N Prakash moved the high court via video conferencing on April 4 seeking permission to travel for purchasing food for his cats. He submitted that as a vegetarian, he does not cook meat at home and his three cats were being fed special biscuits. Prakash said police rejected his request for an online pass to travel to a pet hospital to procure the biscuits. 

The Kerala HC heard Prakash via video conferencing April 6 and allowed his plea noting that animals also have the right to life as laid down in a 2014 Supreme Court judgment. It referred to Constitution’s article 51 A (g), which says it shall be the duty of every citizen to protect forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.

‘Let the curse of corona fall upon you’: The Calcutta high court on March 23 initiated contempt proceedings against lawyer Bijoy Adhikari after he cursed Justice Dipankar Dutta that “may the coronavirus infection befall” on him after the latter’s refusal to hear his case.

In his order, Dutta said Adhikary on March 23 interfered when the court was dictating a ruling and “thumped the addressing table and then banged the microphone on it.” It said Adhikary was warned to behave but instead of heeding to the warning, he was heard to say that “my future shall be doomed by him and for such purpose, he cursed I be infected by the coronavirus”.

No ban on newspapers: The Madras high court on Thursday dismissed a plea seeking a ban on newspapers. The plea claimed that coronavirus can spread through contact with newspaper and prayed that the exemption given to print media from lockdown restrictions be withdrawn.

The court said restricting or prohibiting the publication of newspapers will be violative of the right to free speech and independence of media. “More research is needed to establish that the virus could spread easily through newspapers. When such is a position based on these preliminary researches and in the absence of sufficient data, the prayer sought for by the petitioner cannot be granted.”

Centre on government-approved news on Covid-19: The Supreme Court on March 31 rejected a plea of the Centre for a direction to the print, electronic and social media against publishing anything on Covid-19 without first ascertaining facts through a mechanism of the central government. 

The direction was sought in response to two petitions filed in the court highlighting the plight of migrant workers, who were forced to return from big cities to their homes on foot after the lockdown was announced. “Any deliberate or unintended fake or inaccurate reporting either in electronic, print, or social media and particularly web portals has a serious and inevitable potential of causing panic amongst large sections of the society,” the Centre said it in its affidavit.

‘Lockdown impossible without the declaration of emergency’: The Centre for Systemic Accountability and Change, an NGO, moved the Supreme Court on March 31 arguing that the lockdown has effectively led to the suspension of fundamental rights and the same can be done only through the imposition of emergency and not under the Disaster Management Act as was done by the central government.

The NGO sought imposition of financial emergency under the Constitution’s article 360 arguing it was essential to tackle the threat of coronavirus and to ensure recovery of the economy after the lockdown is lifted. The court adjourned matter when it came up for hearing on April 1.

( This news report first appeared in The Hindustan Times and can be accessed at https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/supreme-court-high-courts-hear-interesting-cases-amid-curbs/story-u6sQzgt5Zo3dcFUreHBjtI.html )

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