NEW DELHI/T’PURAM: The Supreme Court on Tuesday slammed the state government for giving relaxations in lockdown curbs for three days in view of Bakrid festival. The court did not cancel the government order as Tuesday was the final day of relaxations.
But it warned the state government of stern action if the easing of restrictions leads to further spread of Covid.Describing the relaxations granted for Bakrid in areas with a high test positivity rate ‘wholly uncalled for’, a division bench comprising Justice R F Nariman and B R Gavai remarked that giving in to pressure from traders disclosed a ‘sorry state of affairs’.
Recalling the court’s earlier judgments, the bench directed the state government to heed to the Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution.The bench was hearing a petition filed by Delhi-based Keralite P K D Nambiar questioning the Bakrid relaxations in the state.
Nambiar pointed out the SC’ directive to Uttar Pradesh government regarding the Kanwar Yatra festival and pleaded that a similar directive should be issued for Kerala where the TPR was more than three times that in UP.
‘If untoward spread of Covid takes place, court will take action’
The apex court referred to a paragraph in the affidavit filed by Chief Secretary V P Joy on behalf of the state government and said it disclosed the state had given in to associations of traders, which made a representation that they had stocked up goods for the festival season. “What is extremely alarming is the fact that in Category D, where infection rates are the highest, a full day of relaxation has been granted,” the court observed. “We may also indicate that if, as a result of this, any untoward spread of Covid takes place, any member of the public may approach the court after which it will take action accordingly,” said the court which also congratulated the petitioner.
As directed by the court, the state government filed an affidavit on Monday night, saying that the curbs and resultant economic slowdown had badly affected people’s lives.“The organisation of traders started to agitate against the stringent curbs implemented in local self-government institutions and declared they would open shops all over the state flouting regulations,” the affidavit said, adding that Opposition parties had also demanded more relaxations to give some respite to the traders and to allow some economic activities in the state.
“The CM held discussion with the organisations and heard their demands on July 16. The traders assured that the opening of shops will be strictly following Covid protocol and are ready to follow any additional regulations ordered by the state,” it said.
As per a July 17 GO, textiles, footwear shops, jewellery, fancy stores, shops selling home appliances and electronic items, all types of repairing shops and shops selling essential items shall be allowed to open from July 18 to 20 from 7am to 8pm in category A, B and C areas, in view of Bakrid that will be celebrated on July 21.
In D category areas (where TPR is higher than 15%), these shops can function only on July 19, the GO said. In the affidavit, Joy said the state is vigorously vaccinating people and is expected to inoculate at least 60% of its population within two or three months. The state said it has vaccinated 45% of its 18+ population with at least one dose and 18% have been vaccinated with two doses.
BLOOPER IN GO COSTS GOVT DEARLY
The setback the state suffered in the Supreme Court, with regard to providing lockdown restrictions for Bakrid, could have been avoided had the senior officials been more vigilant in drafting the governm-ent order announcing relaxations, reports B Sreejan.
Lockdown curbs to continue
After facing criticism from Supreme Court, the state on Tuesday decided not to extend the relaxation further. It also decided to continue the restrictions based on test positivity rate in the local bodies for one more week. The weekend lockdowns will also continue.