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SC stays HC lockdown call as UP says infringes domain, will trigger fear

Issuing notice on an urgent plea by the state, a Bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said that “until further orders, there shall be an ad interim stay of the impugned order passed by the High Court”.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
April 21, 2021 4:10:27 am
Lucknow: People visit a market to buy essential items after High Court ordered complete lockdown due to surge in coronavirus cases, in Lucknow, Monday, April 19, 2021. (PTI)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday put on hold the Allahabad High Court order imposing “almost complete lockdown/curfew in five major cities of Uttar Pradesh”.

Issuing notice on an urgent plea by the state, a Bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said that “until further orders, there shall be an ad interim stay of the impugned order passed by the High Court”.

On Monday, saying that the rising Covid cases had “virtually incapacitated” the medical infrastructure in Uttar Pradesh, the Allahabad High Court Monday ordered a weeklong lockdown in Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar and Gorakhpur districts, till April 26.

The state government, however, had said a complete lockdown in the five districts was not an option, with Additional Chief Secretary (Information) Navneet Sahgal saying the government would impose further restrictions, but that, apart from saving lives, it had to also think of livelihoods.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court Bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, however, asked the state government to “immediately report to the High Court about the steps it has taken and proposes to take in the immediate future within a period of one week in view of the current pandemic”.

Appearing for the state, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that the UP government “has issued several directions to contain the spread of Corona Virus and are taking adequate precautions at their own”. He added that “the directions issued by the High Court vide the impugned order are as rigorous as a lockdown though the High Court has observed that they are nowhere close to a complete lockdown”.

The bench appointed Senior Advocate P S Narasimha as amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter.

Hearing a PIL on the “inhuman” condition at quarantine centres and the state of Covid treatment, a division bench of the HC had said that while ordering a lockdown was the government’s prerogative, it was disappointed by the measures taken since its last order, calling them an “eyewash”.

In its appeal before the SC, the state said that “though the intention behind the…order…is both laudable and salutary”, the HC “has effectively encroached upon the executive domain and has passed a mandamus which is incapable of being executed at the present stage, and if executed, is capable of creating panic, fear and law and order situation in the State”.

It also contended that there “was no empirical data” before the HC “to compel it to arrive at a conclusion that lockdown/total curfew for a week was the only way to break the chain of Covid-19 infection”.

Apprehending “public unrest” if the order were to be implemented, the government submitted that “a vast population of the five cities…may not be ready for a lockdown. There may be and… there are, large number of people who are not even having the basic stock of food/groceries etc. in their households which can last up till 26.04.2021. Furthermore, a large part of citizenry… in these five cities live on earning and surviving on day to day basis.”

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