On Thursday, the SC directed the Centre to either ban or regulate within a month the use and installation of disinfection tunnels involving spraying or fumigation of chemicals on human beings.
SC has also asked the Centre to issue directions under the National Disaster Management Act to prevent "exposure of human beings to artificial ultraviolet rays."
A PIL was filed by Gurusimran Singh Narula, a final year student from Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law, IIT Kharagpur. He argued that the disinfectants that are said to prevent the spread of COVID-19, are, in fact, ineffective and expose people to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
The petitioner had approached the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare earlier on two occasions. However, the Ministry instead of issuing notice regulating the use of such disinfectant chambers and tunnels promoted the use of such chemical disinfectants.
The Central government, in its affidavit, had informed the Supreme Court that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) had issued the guidelines and SOPs which had enlisted various guidelines and protocols to be adopted for cleaning and sanitisation.
The Centre said thatDisinfectant fogging as a method to sanitize was not recommended in these guidelines for routine patient care areas or operation theatres as these disinfectants can be hazardous. It has advised against the use of disinfectant tunnels and sprays for people as a measure against COVID-19.
Justice Ashok Bhushan who led the bench made it clear in its judgment that such advisories were not sufficient and some actions were required to remove the "cloud of uncertainty."
The bench, also comprising Justices R S Reddy and M R Shah said "When a statute confers power on authority and that power is to be exercised for the benefit of the people in general, the power is coupled with the duty."
"We have no doubt that the Union and the States are taking all measures to contain the pandemic and all mitigating steps but the facts which have been brought on record in this writ petition indicate that in the present case, something more was required to be done by respondent No.1 apart from issuing an advisory that use of disinfectant on the human body is not recommended," it said.
Replying to an affidavitin which the center said thatrole of the central government is limited to provide necessary guidelines and financial support, as public health and hospitals are under the control of states and UT and it is their duty to implement guidelines introduced byMoHFW, the court said
"No exception can be taken to the above pleading but the provisions of the Act, 2005 (Disaster Management Act) confer certain more responsibilities and duties on the respondent no.1 apart from issuance of guidelines and providing financial support. The Act 2005 is special legislation containing self-contained provisions to deal with a disaster. The pandemic being a disaster within the meaning of Act 2005 has to be dealt with sternly and effectively,”