What are SOPS?

A Standard Operating Procedure, i.e., SOP is a technical document used in official business run throughs and government functioning. A Standard Operating Procedure usually entails out the order to take forward activities regarding the particular functioning of a system. A SOP usually helps in avoiding the need to work out the time wheel of events with every cycle of the process.

Usage and Relevance in current Situation:

Though, Standard Operating Procedures exists for almost every other function, they do not come with a statutory backing. Also, Strict implementation of the SOPs in every cycle is not essentially possible because of various intrinsic factors and externalities that keep changing with time.

However, COVID-19, has given a new outlook to these SOPs and these Standard Operating Procedures issued by the centre and the States have assumed the status of ‘rule books’ for effectively managing and containing the COVID-19 onslaught.

SOPs have become the norm of the day as special situations have called for dedicated, specially drafted SOPs, that come with a statutory backing. Let us analyze the SOPs issued in relation to movement of people by the Centre and the State of Delhi.

Centre’s SOP regarding movement of masses:

On the 30th of May, the centre came out with the SOP for unlock 1.0[1]. Under the same, the mandated lockdown was extended till June 30 in particular containment zones all over India. Some notable directives under the same are as follows. All prohibited activities that were prohibited earlier are to have an opening in a phased manner.

This , however, includes the night curfew, from 9.00 p.m. to 5 a.m. for all non-essential activities and movement of individuals. (These are the revised timings)

The opening up of inter-state borders, under this SOP is a development that is quite significant, with the Indian COVID-19 tally crossing the two-lakh mark[2]. E-passes for transport of goods and services are no longer required. Having said this, the centre has also come out with SOPS relating to the quarantine measures for inter-state movements, opening of airports and resuming of domestic flights.

This being said, states have also been given the powers to regulate the movement of individuals based on reasons of public health and its assessment of the situation, with the condition that they publicise the particulars in advance.

Delhi’s Standard Operating Procedure (Movement of individuals):

On the other hand, the Standard Operating Procedure released by Delhi made it clear that the state borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh would continue to remain sealed for another week[3]. Also, E-passes are mandated for NCR region inter-state movements via roads and trains.

However, one-week home quarantine has been made a must for all individuals, who travel under emergency circumstances to Delhi. This is according to the latest revision by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority[4]. Under this new SOP, passenger lists from the airport, railway, and other means of transport are to be sent to the District Magistrates, who has jurisdiction over the quarantined individuals and has to ensure their proper quarantine. Thus, Delhi has a strict SOP put in place when it comes to the inter-state movement of individuals.

Supreme Court Steps in:

Thus, the center’s SOP, giving powers to the state to issue their own directives regarding the movement of people is pretty open-ended and various states have released their own SOPs for passenger movements. This has led to untoward chaos to an extent in the National Capital Region[5].

For instance, the Supreme Court has asked for the States of Delhi, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh to work and decide on a common movement policy between these states within a period of one week, starting from the 4th of June, 2020.

The Top Court’s order came on the 4th of June, 2020, as a response to a petition filed by a resident of Gurgaon, who had challenged and expressed concerns over the ambiguous SOPs released by these states which made travel between these neighboring states incredibly difficult and unorganized. He claimed that the same violates his Right to Freedom of Movement under the Indian Constitution[5].

One SOP, One Portal, One E-Pass for the NCR:

The Centre has been asked to convene the meeting between states[7] to work on a common portal and common pass program to ensure unhindered movement of individuals in the national capital region and to avoid abrupt shutting down of state borders in the name of SOP.

In a gist, SOPs with regard to the movement of individuals by the center are pretty lenient at this point. However, Delhi state seems to have taken a careful stance in this regard keeping in mind the active cases in the state that has gone past the 23,000 mark at this point[8].

A common SOP following the SC directives will definitely ease the situation. This indeed boils down as the need of the hour in the National Capital Region.

REFERENCES


[1] Government of India, “Guidelines on extension of LD in Containment Zones and phased reopening” (Ministry of Home Affairs, 2020)

[2] “Number of Covid-19 tests crosses 40 lakh-mark; cases surge To over 2 lakh: Health Ministry”, THE TIMES OF INDIA, (Jun 03, 2020)

[3] Day after Delhi sealed borders: Now Haryana says borders to open only on mutual consent, THE INDIAN EXPRESS, (Jun 03, 2020),

[4] Government of NCT of Delhi, “Facilitation of Persons under Home Isolation by various authorities” (Delhi Disaster Management Authority, 2020).

[5] The Constitution of India, art. 19.

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