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Supreme Court quashes petition seeking directive to use “Physical Distancing” in place of “Social Distancing”, fines petitioner with Rs 10,000

The petitioner argued that in a country like India where caste-based inequalities and stigmatisation still exist, the use of word "social distancing" could have widespread ramifications

Even as the country is in the grips of Wuhan coronavirus, there is no dearth of frivolous petitions filed by people in the scouts, including the Supreme Court. In one such case, a petition filed by Advocate B. Karthik Navayan from Hyderabad addressed to the Chief Justice of India, S. A. Bobde, had asked the court to issue directives to the Government of India and State Governments to use the word, “Physical Distancing” or “Individual Distancing” or “Disease distancing” “Safe Distancing” or any other appropriate word instead of the word “Social Distancing”.

The apex country of the country quashed the petition seeking replacement of word “social distancing” with “physical distancing” and instead imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on the petitioner.

The use of the word “social distancing” promotes discrimination: petition

Advocate B. Karthik Navayan, in his petition, had claimed that the Ministry of Health and family welfare, Government of India has issued an advisory on following “social distancing” norms in order to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. The advisory includes the word “social distancing” but what it means is for people to maintain “physical distancing” as explained in the first paragraph, “Social distancing is a non-pharmaceutical infection prevention and control intervention implemented to avoid/decrease contact between those who are infected with a disease-causing pathogen and those who are not, so as to stop or slow down the rate and extent of disease transmission in a community, this eventually leads to decreasing in spread, morbidity and mortality due to the disease”.

The letter further mentions that in the subsequent point in the advisory notified by the government of India, it said about the possibility of postponing of exams in view of the current coronavirus outbreak. The advisory read, “on-going exams to be conducted only after ensuring “physical distance” of one meter amongst students”.

The petitioner argued that in a country like India where caste-based inequalities and stigmatisation still exist, the use of word “social distancing” could have widespread ramifications and lead to a new wave of discrimination and inequities against the beleaguered communities.

Furthermore, the petition claims that the use of the word “social distancing” by government agencies and media have broadened its usage and brought it into the colloquial discourse. The use of “social distancing” has empowered people like Maria Wirth and Jonnavithula Ramalingeswara Rao to promote the practice of caste-based untouchability which is prohibited by article 17 of the constitution of India and by subsequent legislation.

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