Can Businesses Start After 20th April, 2020

After the honourable Prime Minister’s speech on 14/4/2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs come out with revised guidelines for lockdown no. 2 starting from 14/04/2020 to 3/05/2020. The most significant aspect of the said revised guidelines was that certain industries have been allowed to start limited operations from 20/04/2020. However, these relaxations have not been made applicable to containment zones as demarcated by states/UTs/ District Administrators.

It appears that Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on 15/04/2020 has released a list containing classification of hotspots across all districts of the country. As per the said letter, the districts have been classified into;

  • Hotspots (districts with large outbreaks): Red Zone
  • Hotspots (districts with clusters): Red Zone

(It will be assumed that containment activities are underway in Hotspots)

  • Non-hotspot districts reporting cases, and
  • Districts which have not reported positive cases: Green Zone

Criteria for shifting, categories have been also laid down. Orange zone is defined as a place where there have been no new cases in the last 14 days.

Ambiguities

  1. Although the revised guidelines dated 15/04/2020 by MHA state that the guidelines are not applicable in containment zones demarcated by states/ UTs/ District Administrators, still MoHFW has released a list of hotspots, deeming them to be concealment zones. We will have to wait and see if State governments would release their own respective containment zones based on the list provided by MoHFW.
  2. Further the revised guidelines of MHA also state that the restrictions imposed should not be diluted by the state governments. So, in such a situation can the State governments sub-classify hotspots (Red Zone) wherein there is lesser number or no Covid-19 patients. For instance, Pune district has been classified as a Red Zone with large outbreak. However, there can be a particular revenue village wherein there have been no infections in the past 28 days, therefore; will such revenue village be classified as Green Zones to which relaxations under the revised guidelines are applicable. It is essential that both State and Central governments clarify these issues

By reading the provisions of the revised guidelines issued by the MHA together with the district zoning list released by MoHFW, the following can be deduced:

  1. There will be no relaxation in hotspots (Red Zone), and no industrial activities will be allowed to function expect essential services as specifically permitted by MHA. Relaxations as provided in the MHA guidelines dated 15/04/2020 applicable with effect from 20/04/2020 shall not be applicable to hotspots (Red Zone).
  2. Relaxations as provided in the MHA guidelines dated 15/04/2020 applicable with effect from 20/04/2020 shall be applicable to No infected Districts (Green Zone).
  3. It is unclear as to what is permissible in Orange Zone. However, interpretation of the guidelines compels us to conclude that restrictions as applicable to Red Zone shall also apply to Orange Zone.

You can refer to the revised MHA guidelines dated 15/04/2020 as under;

The list of hotspots and the different zones released by MoHFW dated 15/04/2020 can be accessed here.


Disclaimer: This note is prepared on the basis of available information as on date, which shall be subject to changes in the event of the government coming out with new guidelines/ clarifications/ notifications/ circulars.

By

Partha Pati, Sr. Partner

Abhay Nevagi & Associates, Advocates

parth@anevagi.com