COVID-19 | P&H HC | Chandigarh Admn. weighed pros and cons before opening shops selling essential items; Admn. may lay down parameters of social distancing at time of distribution of essential items

Punjab and Haryana High Court: A Division Bench of Rajiv Sharma and Rakesh Kumar Jain, JJ. while addressing an PIL with regard to opening of shops selling essential items, held that,

“Maintaining social distance is a sine qua non to control the disease. The Administration may also solicit opinion of the specialists of infectious/communicable diseases, while taking a decision.”

Petitioner in the present PIL has challenged the order dated 27-03-2020. While challenging the Order he relied on various reports published with regard to spread of Corona Virus pandemic.

It has been averred that necessary steps are being taken to fight the pandemic of COVID-19 by Chandigarh Administration.

“… A provision was made for home quarantine of specified persons to prevent further spread of the disease. A decision was also taken to appoint a Nodal Officer for contact tracing and enforcing home quarantine. A police team was placed at the disposal of the Nodal Officer to assist him. It was also ordered that on the back of right hand of such person, stamp be marked along with relevant date.”

Chandigarh Administration also tried hard to ensure continuation of supplies of essential items.

However, various problems were faced and it was realised that it was not possible to maintain the supply chain for long in this manner, without involving the traditional network of shops.

Purpose of social distancing was being defeated when a huge crowd thronged the buses/trucks loaded with vegetables and fruits.

In view of the above, Administrator, UT, Chandigarh reviewed the situation and complaints filed and in line of the same, limited exemption was given only to one person from each household to get essential items from the nearest shops.

Home delivery system already put in place by the Administration was encouraged.

Thus it is evident, that the order passed in 27-03-2020 was issued in compliance to the guidelines issued by Union of India.

Hence, the bench stated that, the Order challenged is valid.

“Scope of judicial interference in a policy matter is very limited. The Chandigarh Administration has weighed all the pros and cons before taking the decision. We will not substitute our wisdom for the wisdom of the Administration during this crisis. Maintaining social distance is a sine qua non to control the disease. The Administration may also solicit opinion of the specialists of infectious/communicable diseases, while taking a decision.”

In the above view, petition was disposed of with an observation that administration may lay down the parameters of social distancing at the time of distribution of essential items and also to monitor and regulate the same by taking stringent actions against the violators. [Adityajit Singh Chadha v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 390 , decided on 29-03-2020]

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