The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday asked the central and state governments to respond to a public interest litigation (PIL) that challenged the constitutional validity of the Covid-19 lockdown that “forced people under house arrest without any backing of law”, and left the vulnerable section struggling for survival.
The division bench headed by Justice RM Chhaya directed the governments to take instructions specific to the directions sought by the petitioner and submit a report on June 19.
The PIL moved by a social activist Vishwas Bhambhurkar, submitted that the lockdown resulted in the suspension of “Articles 13, 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India by keeping the people of the country illegally restrained inside their houses without any backing of law… the lockdown also caused untold hardships to the people of the country – food crises and hunger, migrant crises, medical crises and various other issues”. The petition also impressed upon “police brutalities” against migrant labourers.
The petitioner represented by advocate KR Koshti, sought the court’s direction to the respondent government and declare the present lockdown as unconstitutional and ultra vires on account of it being illegal, arbitrary, unjust, and bad in law. It also sought the court’s direction to declare the notifications of “virtual curfew” dated March 24 and subsequent notifications as “unconstitutional, without authority of law and illegal…”
Criminal cases registered against a large number of people for allegedly violating lockdown has caused “untold harassment to the citizens,” when the lockdown itself is violative of the Constitution of India, the PIL said. Lockdown hurt the vulnerable sections a lot, who were left struggling for survival and existence, as no safeguard was provided by the authorities before implementing it. “While four days’ lead time was given for the Janata Curfew, barely four hours’ time was given to the crores of Indians to arrange their lives and livelihoods in an orderly manner,” it said.
The matter will next be heard by the bench hearing other Covid-19 related matters, along with the suo motu PIL.
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