FAQ: Can My RWA Stop Entry of Domestic Helps During Lockdown?
Do RWAs have any power to stop the entry of people into societies? Here’s all you need to know.
Ever since the easing of restrictions during the third phase of the coronavirus lockdown, there have been numerous cases of tensions between Residents’ Welfare Associations (RWAs) and residents, from rules preventing domestic workers to enter societies, to harassment of residents who are healthcare workers.
While residents see the RWAs’ action as officious meddling (not exactly a new thing, what with rules over guests, locked gates, and monitoring), the latter argue they are trying to ensure safety.
But do RWAs actually have any power to stop the entry of people into societies or the resumption of private offices within them, and make rules prohibiting any kind of essential workers from going to work?
We answer your questions in this set of FAQs.
Can my domestic help come to work during lockdown 3.0?
When lockdown 3.0 was announced, the Ministry of Home Affairs released new guidance which said that apart from containment zones, there can be free movement of people for non-essential activities in all areas between 7 am and 7 pm, though there can be no public transport in Red and Orange Zones.
While domestic workers and service providers may not be considered ‘essential workers’, the new guidelines by the MHA makes it clear that they can go to work during this phase of the lockdown – and from what the Prime Minister said in his most recent speech, during lockdown 4.0 as well.
Can RWAs make rules to prevent my domestic worker from coming to work?
A few days into lockdown 3.0, the Delhi government had to issue orders directing district magistrates and deputy commissioners of police to ensure that RWAs don’t prevent the resumption of economic activities allowed by the government, after complaints from private offices not being allowed to open, and domestic workers, plumbers etc not being allowed to enter residential areas.
Many RWAs across the country have tried to make up their own rules and restrict entry of domestic workers, but as the Delhi government made clear, RWAs have no powers to do so. The MHA orders and guidelines, issued by the central government using powers under the Disaster Management Act, do not provide any authority to RWAs to make any such decisions.
State governments and local authorities like District Magistrates have powers to make some additional rules and restrictions, but not RWAs. As a Home Ministry official told The Indian Express:
“It is not for RWAs to decide the contours of the lockdown. That power is only vested with the Centre and the states. The MHA has not vested any power in RWAs to decide on the matter. The Centre has no issues with services of domestic workers or any other service provider.”
As a result, RWAs can’t prevent domestic workers, electricians, plumbers, A/C mechanics, car mechanics, TV repairmen, internet/telecom technicians, private security guards, people providing laundry/press services, and so on from coming to your area for work.
Can’t RWAs claim such restrictions are necessary for safety?
No. Regardless of their reasons, for RWAs to prohibit the movement of people for their work, or to restrict the way in which any person lives their life, they need to have some authority by law to do so, which they don’t have. They can prevent entry of non-essential workers to an area outside of between 7 pm to 7 am, but that’s it.
Unless you live in a Cooperative Society which actually have rights over the land, your RWA has little to no power to make any rules, in fact, even during non-lockdown times. Those RWAs which derive their authority from a Cooperative Society (which you would be a member of by owning a property in that area), can make some stronger restrictions, even so far as to prevent you from selling your property to certain groups of people, depending on state government rules.
However, regular RWAs are just voluntary associations, at best registered under the Societies Registration Act, which cannot restrict how you use your property. They can collect sums for maintenance, manage common areas, and prescribe some rules like having stickers on your car for entry and exit, but that’s pretty much it.
What can I do if my RWA tries to make tougher rules regarding lockdown?
Let’s face it, even though RWAs don’t have the kind of powers they want, that isn’t going to stop them from trying to make rules, sometimes with good intentions as well.
But if they cross a line, you have every right to complain, and this doesn’t just mean rushing to court. In the event you have any problem with your RWA you can contact the police or your local administration (ie your DM’s office) for help.
This isn’t just in Delhi where the government has specifically said DMs and DCPs have to ensure RWAs don’t just do their own thing. The on-ground enforcement of the lockdown has been entrusted to DMs and DCPs in every district across the country, according to the MHA’s orders.
You can also approach the police and your local administration about such behaviour after the lockdown ends, as they are meant to safeguard your rights.
To be clear, it’s no guarantee that the police and local administration will take your side, even though by law they would be required to do so. In the event they fail to, you will then have to approach the courts. In states like Delhi where the government has already issued directions to the authorities, of course, it should make things easier for you.
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