The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to entertain a plea seeking directions to the Centre to implement the Home Ministry order requiring landlords to abstain from demanding rent from students and labourers for a month during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S. K. Kaul and B. R. Gavai dismissed the plea of advocate-petitioners Pawan Prakash Pathak and A. K. Pandey, as it stated that the apex court could not enforce the orders of the government.
Justice Kaul observed, “These are difficult times and generalised petitions cannot be filed. Make a representation to the government if you are aggrieved. How can such petitions exist? How can you pray for a direction to provide a student’s fund? Tomorrow you will ask for some other fund.”
The bench further noted that “There is a helpline set up by the Centre”. Responding to this, it was claimed that no reply was received on the helpline number.
The court at last asked the Petitioners to withdraw their plea and approach the concerned authorities for relief.
The petition was filed to raise concerns over the persistent demand for rent by the landlords from the student and the labour class tenants, amidst the lockdown.
The Petitioners had pointed out that despite the advisory issued by the government, many landlords were forcing the above class to vacate the premises and threatening them to be thrown out of their premises
The petitioners submitted,
“various State’s in India are hub for students like Delhi, Mumbai, Kota City, Chennai and with mass population is constituted by students & labour’s in these cities and they are comparatively lower on income scale as well and with extension of lock-down till 03rd May, 2020 the above class is facing issue of paying rental accommodation as the source of income during this period is Nil and savings with these families are minimal, whereas for food they are dependent upon the services extended by the govt in their local area through fair price shops & other NGO Help.”
The Petitioners further submitted that many students lived in Private PGs across the city and depended on the meals provided by the PG owners for which they payed a fixed amount monthly. However, due the lockdown the PG owners are not providing food due to restrictions on movement but are demanding the same rent which they charge when they provide the Meals.
The plea added,
“majority of the parents are self-employed and because this pandemic has also created a dent in their income they are forced to cope up by spending whatever minimum savings they have accumulated. There being high uncertainty as to when this lock down would end and normalcy would be restored so any demand for rent by the landlords would further aggravate the situation but also lead to undue harassment and embarrassment to the students.”
Adding that the students and the labour class are living in constant fear and depressions in these circumstances, the petitioner stated,
“suffering from financial crisis due to the lockdown, in such situation one is only left with one option i.e opportunity cost of money, either one can pay rent out of same amount or one can buy essential ration/food for family during this period.”
Thus, while asserting the enforcement of the Fundamental right to life of students and labours under Article 21 of the Constitution, the Petitioners had sought strict enforcement of the government advisory restraining landlords from demanding rent from students and labours while quick response be taken on eviction reporting by tenants amidst COVID 19.