Allahabad High Court: The Division Bench of Ajit Kumar and Siddhartha Varma, JJ., while holding that its’ their constitutional duty to save innocent people from the pandemic and in order to break the chain of COVID-19 pandemic, people are to be restrained from going outside their homes for a week, expressed that:
Those in the helm of affairs of governance are to be blamed for the present chaotic health problems and more so when there is a democracy which means a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
It is a shame that while the Government knew of the magnitude of the second wave it never planned things in advance.
Recent surge in the COVID-19 pandemic has virtually incapacitated the medical infrastructure in the State of U.P. and especially in cities like Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur and Gorakhpur.
“…pandemic is teasing the system in a situation where patients have outnumbered the hospital beds and people are just running from pillar to post and in this process attendants of patients are not only getting infected but others in public are also getting infected and a complete chain has got formed.”
Court stated that before the pandemic spirals to engulf in it the entire population of these badly hit districts, it is necessary to take some harsh steps in larger public interest.
Further, the Bench remarked that it understands the limitation of the government in creating infrastructure to meet the challenge of COVID-19 and at the moment efforts are afoot to create the same but before all the efforts are translated into action much water would have flown under the bridge to the utter dismay of a large population of have nots.
“…in a democracy there are legitimate expectations from the government to adopt measures to meet public health issues like all other issues of public interest. Public interest expects judiciary to remain vigilant to all the issues which if not addressed to in time, will result in the failure of the system which is meant to safeguard public interest.”
Adding to the above, High Court stated that if people die of pandemic in a large number due to paucity of sufficient medical aid it would be the governments to blame that failed to counter the pandemic even after one long year of experience and learning. One would only laugh at us that we have enough to spend on elections and very little to spend on public health.
Calling early testing scheme or plan a farce, Court elaborated stating that the reports are neither updated before 72 hours nor, samples are taken care of, owing to the shortage of manpower. Only VVIPs have been getting the reports within 6-12 hours.
Economy, economy and economy is the only tune that the government is all the time harping upon, but bread and butter if you take to a person who needs oxygen and medication, it will be of no use to him.
Pomp show of Development
Calling out the Government, Bench expressed that if hospitals’ staff and medicos go ill for the relentless services to cure people in the pandemic, people would start losing their lives and all pomp and show of development would be of no avail.
Looking at the present situation, Court stated that night curfew in the name of Corona Curfew and Weekend Curfew are nothing else but a mere eyewash.
Not being satisfied with the Government efforts, Court stated that people are largely not following the Court’s Order for putting masks on their faces nor, the police could ensure 100% masking till date.
Due to the elections being conducted, police was virtually shifted to polling places giving priority to election above public health.
No Social Distancing
High Court stated that on many occasions in various political rallies masks were never worn by people. In our considered view action is liable to be taken against the organisers who did not anticipate such eventualities under the Uttar Pradesh Public Health Epidemic Diseases Act, 2020 and/ or any other relevant Act in force.
Admission of patients to ICUs have been largely done on the recommendations of VIPs. Even supply of life saving anti-viral drug namely Remdesivir is being provided only on the recommendation of VIPs. VIPs and VVIPs are getting their RT-PCR report within 12 hours, whereas, ordinary citizen is kept waiting for such reports for two to three days and thus, spreading further infection to other members of his/her family.
If popular government has its own political compulsions in not checking public movements during this pandemic, we cannot remain mere passive spectators.
We can’t shirk away from our constitutional duty to save innocent people from the pandemic which is spreading due to the negligence of a few.
Direction passed by the Court:
- All establishments be it government or private, except financial institutions and financial departments, medical and health services, industrial and scientific establishments, essential services including municipal functions, and public transport, shall remain closed till 26th April, 2021. The judiciary will, however, function on its own discretion;
- All shopping complexes and malls shall remain closed till 26th April, 2021;
- All grocery shops and other commercial shops excluding medical shops, with more than three workers, shall remain closed till 26th April, 2021;
- All hotels, restaurants and even the small eating points on thelas etc. shall remain closed till 26th April, 2021;
- All institutions like educational institutions and other institutions relating to other disciplines and activities be it government, semi-government or private shall remain closed including for their teachers and instructors and other staff till 26th April, 2021 (this direction is for the whole of Uttar Pradesh);
- No social functions and gatherings including marriage functions shall be permitted till 26th April, 2021. However, in case of already fixed marriages a necessary further permission would have to be taken from the District Magistrate of the concerned district. Gatherings would be limited to 25 persons and the district magistrate concerned shall take a decision after giving due consideration to the prevailing situation of the impact of Covid 19 including notification of containment zones in the area where such marriage has to take place;
- All religious activities in public of any kind is directed to remain suspended till 26th April, 2021;
- All religious establishments of any kind are directed to remain closed till 26th April, 2021;
- All hawkers including fruits and vegetable vendors, milk vendors and bread vendors, shall go off the road by 11 AM every day till 26th April, 2021;
- Containment zones shall be notified every day in two leading Hindi and English newspapers having wide circulation in the districts of Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar/ Dehat and Gorakhpur.
- All public movements on roads would remain restricted completely, subject to above directions. Movements would be only allowed in case of medical help and emergencies.
- In addition to the above directions, we direct the State Government to go robust for implementing the current vaccination programme.
Court directed for the order to be sent to Chief Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh today to enforce the above directions from the night of 19-04-2021 till 26-04-2021 in the cities of Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar, and Gorakhpur.
Our above directions are nowhere close to a complete lockdown.
While concluding the High Court remarked that:
In this order if we have not imposed a lockdown it does not mean that we do not believe in it. We are still of the view that if we want to break the chain a lockdown for a duration of at least two weeks is a must.
Government shall consider the imposition of a complete lockdown in the entire state.
Matter to be put up again on 26-04-2021. [In-Re Inhuman Condition At Quarantine Centres And For Providing Better Treatment To Corona Positive v. State of U.P., 2021 SCC OnLine All 273, decided on 19-04-2021]