Haryana Govt's Restrictive Action on Doctors' Travel Infringes on Right to Freedom Movement: Delhi HC

The Delhi High Court on Friday said the order of Haryana authorities preventing and obstructing the movement of doctors, nurses, court staff and trucks to and from Delhi to Sonepat prima facie infringes right to freedom of movement even when the entire national capital and Sonipat are not coronavirus containment zones.

A bench of Justices Manmohan and Sanjeev Narula, which conducted the hearing through video conferencing, said it was of prima facie view that the action of the District Magistrate, Sonipat, restricting the movement, is contrary to the orders and letters issued by the Union Home Secretary on lockdown guidelines.

The court issued notice to the Centre and Haryana government on a petition challenging the order of Sonipat authorities on restriction activities.

Petitioner OP Gupta submitted that a number of Delhi residents have to travel to Sonipat for essential work and similar is the situation for Sonipat residents.

He said the district magistrate of Sonipat has imposed blanket cross border transit restrictions between the two cities and granted exemptions to only a few categories of government officials and for movement of goods not destined for there.

He added that even doctors, nurses and court officials who either reside in Sonipat or work there are being prevented from entering or leaving the city.

According to the April 30 order of the district magistrate, accommodation arrangements for persons working in Sonipat but residents of Delhi or UP shall have to be made by the management concerned at Sonipat to preclude any daily cross-border transit.

The order further states that those persons who are working in Delhi or Uttar Pradesh but are residents of Sonipat shall pursue similar accommodation arrangement with their respective management in areas of their work so as to preclude any daily cross-border transit.

The bench said prima facie it was of the view that the April 30 order of Sonipat district magistrate prevents and obstructs the movement of trucks from Delhi to Sonipat as well as movement of doctors, nurses and court officials.

"Accordingly, this court is of the prima facie view that the order dated April 30, 2020 by the District Magistrate, Sonipat, constitutes an infringement of Articles 19(1)(d) (freedom of movement) and 301 (freedom of trade and commerce) of the Constitution especially when the entire National Capital and Sonipat are not containment zones."

"This court is also in prima facie agreement with the submission of the petitioner that the action of the district magistrate, Sonipat, is contrary to the orders/ letters dated April 15, 30 and May 1 issued by the Union Home Secretary," the bench said.

The bench referred to an order of the Kerala High Court which has held, "No doubt, restrictions may be imposed in times of a national emergency such as the present, but when the guidelines issued by the Central Government under the Disaster Management Act itself permits travel for urgent medical treatment, then the said guidelines have necessarily to be enforced by the Central Government through the removal of the blockades that prevent such travel."