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Monday, April 12, 2021

‘Situation going out of control’: Gujarat HC suggests lockdown for short period

The Chief Justice noted that despite a night curfew from 9 pm to 6 am “things are not getting under control”. “…Everywhere, government offices are open, corporate offices are open, everything is open.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
Updated: April 7, 2021 4:18:22 am
‘Situation going out of control’: Gujarat HC suggests lockdown for short periodA division bench of the Gujarat HC suggested that the state government should consider imposing a lockdown or curfew for three to four days to control the spread of the infection. (Express File Photo by Nirmal Harindran)

TAKING SUO motu cognizance of the rising Covid-19 cases across the state, a division bench of Gujarat High Court (HC), headed by Chief Justice Vikram Nath, on Tuesday suggested that the state government should consider imposing a lockdown or curfew for three to four days to control the spread of the infection.

The court’s observation came after Advocate General Kamal Trivedi informed the state government has been considering imposition of a lockdown but found itself in a “catch-22 situation”. The AG also assured the court that the state government will “come up with some decisions today (Tuesday) with respect to marriages and hospital (bed shortage)”. He also said “this time the variant is affecting (the) younger generation… Earlier, it was above 60 years but now we are finding (cases) among 30 years or 40 years… Experts say, severity is not as grave as it was earlier”.

The bench, comprising the Chief Justice and Justice Bhargav Karia, Tuesday took up the matter suo motu for hearing and requested the Advocate General and Government Pleader Manisha Lavkumar to appear before it.

“The issue is that things are going from bad to worse and the Covid-19 situation is going out of control. This time, Ahmedabad is in a pretty bad state with 700-plus cases… and this figure, too, some people say, is not the correct figure and maybe is slightly on the lower side than the actual figure… Whatever it is, 773 (cases in Ahmedabad on April 5) as the official figure itself is huge. Gujarat itself is also bad with 3,000-plus cases… What steps do you think the government has taken, do you have instructions on this or if you have some suggestions which we can deal with because something seriously needs to be done…,” Chief Justice Vikram Nath said.

The CJ noted that despite a night curfew from 9 pm to 6 am “things are not getting under control”. “…Everywhere, government offices are open, corporate offices are open, everything is open. We fail to understand how to control this situation and this time mortality rate is also very high despite the government’s best efforts.”

Responding to the court’s concern, AG Trivedi said only (a couple of) days ago, the state government was considering to impose a lockdown, but with a possibility of “another spate of miseries”, deterred it from taking such a decision.

“I was looking at the statement made by the director of AIIMS (Randeep Guleria) late yesterday night…, he said the government is responsible to see to it that everything is done within its means… At the same time people should understand that there is a war between corona(virus) and people at large. People should understand that they should avoid attending large gatherings… The (Gujarat) government is thinking of coming out with various options… day before yesterday, the government was seriously thinking to impose lockdown but… lockdown also is likely to invite another spate of miseries so far as low(er) stratum of citizens are considered. So, the government is in a Catch-22 situation,” Trivedi said.

After hearing the AG’s submission, the Chief Justice suggested, “Please convey our message to the decision-makers that urgent serious steps need to be taken to check this, otherwise it is going to go out of hand and again a lockdown will have to be (imposed)… it’s almost reaching there. Maybe three-four days of curfew or a lockdown may check the situation at the moment and then you can open it. But two days or three days of curfew will help, I think. Like, initially in March 2020, there was a curfew of two-three days, over the weekend… We are also considering the same for the high court and district courts.”

He also stressed it was “very necessary” that gatherings should be “completely curtailed and if funerals are to be attended, or marriage functions have to take place, limit should be 25-30 people, maximum 50 people, and that too depending on the area available”.

“As of now, what we understand, the limit is 200 (persons)…it should immediately be cut down to 25 or 50 or the immediate family and no more. Second, I don’t know about the government offices and what is happening there, but everyday judiciary officers are getting infected, registry staff are getting infected in every district. The High Court on an average now sees eight to 10 employees (testing Covid-19 positive). The previous registrar general is also down with corona(virus) and his condition is serious… Something needs to be down by the government throughout Gujarat so that things are taken into control… What else can you do?” enquired the Chief Justice. He also highlighted that beds were falling short due to the recent surge in cases.

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