|PIL No. 45 of 2021
|Date of Filing
|Thangjam Santa Singh @Santa Khurai
|1. State of Manipur through The Chief Secretary 2. The Department of Social Welfare - Government of Manipur 3. The Director General of Police - Government of Manipur 4. The Directorate of Health Services - Government of Manipur 5. Education (School) Department - Government of Manipur 6. Department of Consumer Affairs - Government of Manipur
Santa Khurai, a well-known transgender activist from the State of Manipur has filed this Public Interest Litigation in the High Court of Manipur. The petition seeks various reliefs in matters associated with the Manipur State government’s management of COVID-19 pandemic.
In particular, the petition deals with four issues:
- The denial of the right to education for children in government and government aided schools in the State.
- The priority being given to vaccinated persons for opening shops etc., and the denial of distribution of food grains under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) to unvaccinated persons.
- The police resorting to extra-legal punishments such as beating, public humiliation etc. for the violators of COVID-19 guidelines.
- The Chief Minister’s COVID-19 Affected Livelihood Support Scheme being inaccessible to transgender persons.
The petitioner states that the above said issues infringe the fundamental rights of Articles 14, 19, 21 and 21A of the affected groups in the State of Manipur.
The petitioner has raised the argument that the closure of schools across Manipur amounts to a violation of the right to education guaranteed under Article 21A of the constitution. The petitioner relies on Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka, 1992 AIR SC 1858 and Unni Krishnan and Ors. v. State of Andhra Pradesh and Ors., AIR 1993 SC 2178 and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) signed and ratified by India reiterating that the right to compulsory education of the children guaranteed under Article 21A to all children is being denied to them. The petitioner relies on Col. Nitisha v. Union of India 2021 SCC OnLine SC 26 wherein the Hon’ble Apex Court has recognized indirect discrimination.
The petitioner also states that the distribution of food grains or opening of shops conditional on the vaccination violates discrimination Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution. The petitioner has relied on Swaraj Abliiyan v. Union of India (2016) 7 SCC 498 that the right to free ration even without ration cards exists and hence, the state authorities cannot insist for any conditions including vaccination for distribution of food grains. The petitioner along with the same, highlights the police excesses during the lockdown/curfew in the guise of enforcing COVID-19 guidelines. The pandemic does not license the authorities to act outside the law and violate the guarantee of a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution as held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Menaka Gandhi vs. Union of India, 1978 (1) SCC 248, Vikram Deo Singh Tomar vs. State of Bihar 1988 (Supp) SCC 734, Arvinder Bagga v. State of UP and Ors. AIR 1995 SC 117, Dr. Mehmood Nayyar v. State of Chattisgarh & Ors. (2012) 8 SCC 1.
Moreover, the Chief Minister’s COVID-19 Affected Livelihood Support Scheme is a necessity but the same is not available to individuals like transgender persons which is a deprivation of their livelihood. The said scheme also has the hurdle of inclusion through ration cards and certain listed cards which makes it harder for marginalised communities to access its benefits.
The Hon’ble High Court of Manipur has passed an interim direction to the State authorities not to deny supply of PMGKAY food-grains to beneficiaries who are yet to be vaccinated. The case is posted on 14.09.2021.