Covid-19: Centre Assures SC of Appropriate Steps to Deal with Harassment of People from Northeast

The Centre on Friday assured the Supreme Court that appropriate measures will be taken by it to deal with incidents of harassment and racial discrimination meted out to the people of North-Eastern region over their physical features and wrongly mistaking them for Chinese.

An activist has moved the top court pointing out alleged racial attacks on people of North-Eastern region like spitting on them, evictions from their homes, termination from their jobs, isolating them in the hospital along with other corona infected patients and name calling of racial slurs in various parts of the country.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B R Gavai, which took up the matter through video conferencing, disposed of the matter after recording the statement of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Centre that appropriate steps will be taken by the government urgently.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for petitioner Alana Golmei, pointed out to various reports of racial discrimination and attacks on people of North Eastern region.

He said that people of North-Eastern are facing difficulties due to these types of incidents and Centre should take urgent steps to allay the apprehensions.

The Solicitor General said that there is already a dedicated helpline to address the grievances of North-East people.

Gonsalves responded that the said helpline and the website is not been working or responding as a result the people from North-Eastern (NE) region have been facing difficulties and alleged racial attacks.

Taking note of the submissions, the bench said, "Be that as it may, the solicitor general has submitted that the material which has pointed out in the writ petition shall be attended to and appropriate measures be taken by the Government to dispel the apprehensions of the petitioners as raised in the writ petition on an urgent basis. Taking note of above statement of Solicitor General, the petition is disposed of".

The plea filed through advocate Satya Mitra said, "When the lockdown was imposed on account of COVID 19, beatings of, spitting on, and a whole spectrum of acts of discrimination and violence on people of the Northeast took place. Across the country the public identified of the people of the NE with China and automatically presumed that they were carriers of the virus and subjected them to merciless harassment."

It said that assuming people from the Northeast are automatic carriers of the virus, the landlords have begun evicting persons from their rented apartments during the lockdown and they have no-where to go.

The plea said that media reports have pointed out that persons from the NE who are asymptomatic and have no illness whatsoever have been forcibly quarantine along with persons suffering from the virus.

It sought directions to Centre and particularly to the police force in all the States and UT's in India to conduct an immediate investigation by a senior officer into the crimes reported and prosecutes the offenders expeditiously in accordance with law.

The plea, besides seeking various reliefs also sought direction to Centre and States to ensure that people of North East are not forcibly evicted from rented accommodations during the lockdown period and they should not be denied rations.