Supreme Court orders inclusion of women shelter homes under COVID-19 preventive guidelines

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Tuesday extended its guidelines issued to prevent the spread of coronavirus in children’s homes to Nari Niketans or women’s shelter homes and asked the government to look into the possibility of releasing the inmates wherever feasible to avoid overcrowding.

A bench of Justices N V Ramana, S K Kaul and B R Gavai said state governments should assess the ground situation and take appropriate steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus at the women shelter homes.

The top court had on April 3, taking suo motu note of conditions and preparedness of children’s homes across the country in view of pandemic, issued a slew of directions to state governments and the authorities concerned to prevent the spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19.

During the hearing, advocate Shoeb Alam, appearing for petitioner Rishad Murtaza, said that looking at the situation due to the pandemic, he was seeking extension of the April 3 guidelines to Nari Niketans or women’s shelter homes.

He said several adult women were staying in these homes involuntarily and they should be released to prevent overcrowding in these shelter homes.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said however that even the accused in jails, who are being released, are facing difficulty in going home due to the lockdown protocols.

The bench said that it is directing the government to look into the matter and concerns raised in the petition and wherever it is feasible, the women should be released after assessing the ground situation.

The petition, filed through advocate Fauzia Shakil, said the deadly and extremely contagious coronavirus / COVID-19 outbreak has triggered a global pandemic and panic.

“That the number of COVID-19 patients are increasing across the country. Most of these Nari Niketans  Women Shelter Homes are overcrowded and the residents live in sub-standard and un hygienic conditions.

The health and wellbeing of the residents…are in jeopardy. There is an immediate need to take steps to prevent the contagion of COVID 19 in Nari Niketans/Woman Homes etc across the country,” it said.

The plea said the living conditions at Nari Niketans are deplorable and unhygienic making women there vulnerable to the pandemic.

It said that the overcrowding in Nari Niketans will make it difficult for the inmates to maintain social distancing.

“It is submitted that like most of the viral diseases, the susceptibility of COVID-9 is greater in over-crowded places, mass gatherings, etc”.

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