Tribune News Service
New Delhi, March 26
Hours after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a financial package worth Rs 1.70 lakh crore on Thursday, a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court (SC) seeking a direction to the Centre to declare financial emergency under Article 360 of the Constitution to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.
Filed by the Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASE), the PIL contended that Covid-19 crisis couldn’t be managed as per Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) or a notification under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, or provisions of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897.
The NGO demanded suspension of collection of utility bills for electricity, water, gas, telephone, Internet, etc., and EMI payments during the lockdown period.
It also urged the top court to direct the state police and local authorities to strictly comply with Home Ministry’s instructions so that essential services were not disrupted. “We have demanded an urgent hearing via video-conferencing,” petitioner’s counsel Virag Gupta told The Tribune.
Terming the 21-day nationwide lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the biggest emergency in independent India, the PIL said “it must be addressed as per Constitutional provisions through unified command between the Central and state governments. This will be required not only to defeat the war against coronavirus but also in recovery of the economy after the lockdown is over.”
If financial emergency was declared, the financial package of Rs 1.7 lakh crore announced by the Centre can be utilised in a better and unified manner across India, the petitioner submitted.
Due to the lock down, the economic activities had come to a standstill for which a financial package worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore was announced by the Finance Minister, the petitioner said, adding, “Divergence of steps taken by different authorities are causing confusion, and lawlessness in no way can be solution to a problem as grave as Covid-19.”
“The closure of courts affects the right to get justice. It is submitted that this requires the imposition of emergency as per the Constitution,” the petitioner NGO submitted.
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