Supreme Court: While addressing the Kerala government’s decision to relax lockdown in containment zones due to Bakrid celebrations, which was apparently due to giving in to the pressure of trade associations, the Division Bench of Rohinton Fali Nariman and B. R. Gavai, JJ., stated,
“Pressure groups of all kinds, religious or otherwise, cannot in any manner, interfere with this most precious Fundamental Right of all the citizens of India.”
An interlocutory application in SMW (C) No. 5/2021 was filed on behalf of one P.K.D.Nambiar, pointing out certain news articles which portray an alarming situation taking place in Kerala as a result of ‘Bakrid’ celebrations. Noticeably, Kerala government had relaxed lockdown restrictions even in areas where Covid-19 infection rate is the highest by its Notification dated 17-07-2021.
The Bench opined that even a cursory look at the impugned Notification would show that all non-essential shops, which were allowed in only Category A (lowest infection rate area), were now allowed to Category A to C. In Category D (highest infection rate), all these shops were allowed on 19-07-2021 i.e. Monday only, despite the most severe restrictions being placed in Category D throughout the week, the restrictions placed on Saturdays/Sundays were to operate. Moreover, the Notification merely cautioned the public that as far as possible, the persons visiting shops and other establishments may belong to those with at least one dose of vaccine/COVID recovered category.
Noticing that the impugned decision had been taken by the state government due to the demands of traders’ Associations who represented before the Government that they had stocked up goods for the purpose of Bakrid very early, the Bench stated,
“To give in to pressure groups so that the citizenry of India is laid bare to a nationwide pandemic discloses a sorry state of affairs. Even otherwise, homilies such as “as far as possible” and assurances from traders without anything more, do not inspire any confidence in the people of India or this Court.”
Further, regarding the statement of state that the opening of shops will strictly follow Covid protocols and the traders are ready to follow additional regulations ordered by the State, if any, the Bench expressed,
“What is extremely alarming is the fact that in Category D, where infections are the highest i.e. 15%, a full day of relaxation has been granted, which was yesterday. It is then stated that, as far as possible, the persons visiting shops and other establishments may belong to those with at least one dose of vaccine/COVID recovered category and follow strict COVID protocols…the aforesaid facts disclose an alarming state of affairs.”
Though, the Bench did not stay the impugned notification; however, the Bench condemned the situation by stating, “we may only indicate that this affidavit discloses a sorry state of affairs as has been stated hereinabove, and does not in any real manner safeguard the Right to Life and Health guaranteed to all the citizens of India under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”The Bench further remarked,
“It may also be pointed out that the relaxation for one day to a Category D area was wholly uncalled for.”
In the backdrop of above, the Bench directed Kerala government to give heed to Article 21 read with Article 144 of the Constitution, and follow the law laid down in the Court’s earlier orders in Uttar Pradesh case. Additionally, the Bench apprised that if as a result of the impugned Notification, any untoward spread in the Covid-19 disease takes place, any member of the public may bring this to the notice of the Court, after which necessary action will be taken against those who are responsible.[Alarming Newspaper Report Regarding Kanwar Yatra in State Of U.P., In Re; I.A.No. 82837 of 2021 in SMW (C) No. 5/2021; decided on 20-07-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
For Petitioner(s): By Courts Motion, AOR
For Respondent(s): Mr C.S Vaidyanathan, Sr. Adv, Mr Garima Prasad, AAG, Mr Sharan Dev Singh, Thakur, AAG. Mr Mahesh Takur, Adv., Mr Pradeep Misra, AOR, Mr Suraj Singh, Adv., Mr Ranjit Kumar, Sr. Adv., Mr G. Prakash, Adv., Mr Jishnu M. L., Adv., Ms Priyanka Prakash, Adv., Ms Beena Prakash, Adv. Dr Abhishek Atrey, AOR Ms Ambika Atrey, Adv. Mr Tushar Mehta, SG, Ms Aishwarya Bhati, ASG Mr S.P.V. Raju, ASG Mr Rajat Nair, Adv. Mr Zoheb Hussain, Adv. Ms Sairica Raju, Adv. Mr Kanu Agrawal, Adv. Mr Digvijay Dam, Adv. Mr. B. V. Balaram Das, AOR Mr. M. K. Maroria, Adv. Mr K. Radhakrishnan, Sr. Adv. Mr Vikas Singh, Sr. Adv. Ms. Preeti Singh, AOR Mr. Sunklan Porwal, Adv. Ms Saumya Dwivedi, Adv. Mr. Shubham Kaushik, Adv. Ms Deepika Kalia, Adv.