OBSERVING A dichotomy between the orders passed by Chandigarh Administration and the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs with regard to lockdown relaxations, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday granted a day’s time to the UT Administration to examine the issues and asked it to inform the court on Friday about any decision.
The division bench of Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha and Justice Arun Palli in the order said, “as prima-facie certain conflict/dichotomy between the orders … are observed and as the learned Senior Standing Counsel appearing for Union Territory, Chandigarh submits that Union Territory Administration proposes to strictly abide by the MHA guidelines, as prayed, Union Territory, Chandigarh is granted a day’s time to examine the issues raised by the petitioner with reference to the MHA guidelines and inform this Court about the result thereof”.
The order was passed in a PIL filed by advocate Pankaj Chandgothia, who contended that the containment zones haven’t been properly defined, questioned the unrestricted inter-state movement on UT’s borders and within city, the decision of opening up of industrial area and market complexes, and allowing the public to visit places like Sukhna lake etc.
Submitting that there has been a spurt in the coronavirus positive cases in Chandigarh in the past few days, Chandgothia argued the Chandigarh Administration has taken a decision to grant “liberal relaxations” to all citizens and even to those coming from neighbouring states. “It allows unrestricted entry, exit and inner movement on foot and vehicle and opening of market complexes situated on the inner central roads V4 of each sector, which would certainly compromise on the necessary social distancing and other containment measures,” read the petition.
UT Senior Standing Counsel Pankaj Jain earlier, before the court, submitted that Chandigarh is a unique territory which happens to be the capital of Punjab and Haryana and the government offices have to function here. Regarding the identification of containment zones, the court was told the same have been defined as per the health ministry guidelines. About opening recreational places for the public, the court was told Rock Garden and other major parks remain closed but parks including the Sukhna Lake have been kept open for walks. The court was told the inner markets cannot be shut as there is no concept of standalone shops in the city.
Additional Solicitor General of India, Satya Pal Jain submitted that the guidelines by the Government of India are not under challenge and it is for Chandigarh Administration to defend its actions. ASG Jain also read before court the clauses which say the guidelines cannot be diluted by any state, and submitted the relaxations can only be given subject to the conditions laid down in the guidelines. “It is for the court to take a decision whether they are in violation or not,” he said.
Following the submissions, the court asked Chandigarh Administration about the apparent conflicting relaxations. UT counsel Jain sought time to seek instructions and for review of the relaxations. The case is listed for hearing on Friday.
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