Kerala

Kerala easing curbs for Bakrid ‘extremely alarming’: SC

Police personnel preventing children from entering SM Street in Kozhikode on Sunday. Though the pandemic restrictions have been relaxed for Bakrid, senior citizens and children below 10 years have been asked to stay at home.   | Photo Credit: K. Ragesh

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said the Kerala government’s choice to buckle under pressure from traders to open up shops for Bakrid in high COVID-19 infection areas showed a sorry state of affairs and failure to protect the fundamental right to life and health.

“To give in to pressure groups so that the citizenry of India is laid bare to a nationwide pandemic discloses a sorry state of affairs,” a Bench of Justices Rohinton Nariman and B.R. Gavai underscored.

Citizens were free to bring to the notice of the court any “untoward spread of COVID-19” as a result of the relaxation of the restrictions notified by the government on July 17 due to Bakrid. Action would follow from the court, the Bench noted.

The court said it was “extremely alarming” that the Kerala government could have been coerced to relax restrictions in the ‘D’ category areas where the infection rate was highest at 15%. “The relaxation in the category areas was wholly uncalled for,” it pointed out.

Dismisses govt affidavit

The Bench dismissed Kerala’s affidavit, which “blithely” said the traders were in “misery” during the lockdown and hoped to revive their businesses during Bakrid. They had even stocked up goods early. The court said to treasure goods over the lives of the citizenry during a pandemic showed a “sorry state of affairs”. It dismissed the government’s assurances that only customers who had taken at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine would be allowed into the shops “as far as possible”.

“Homilies such as ‘as far as possible’ and assurances from traders without anything more do not inspire any confidence in the people of India or this court. We may only indicate that this affidavit discloses a sorry state of affairs and does not in any real manner safeguard the right to life and health guaranteed to all the citizens of India under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the court observed in a 11-page order.

“The State government has given in to an association of traders [Vyapari Vyavasaayi Ekopana Samithi],” Justice Nariman observed.

The court ordered the government to “give heed” to the right to life and restrictions on movement during the pandemic. It asked the State to comply with the court directions given in a case concerning Uttar Pradesh’s initial reluctance to stop the Kanwar Yatra.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh, for applicant P.K.D. Nambiar, said Kerala decided to relax despite hosting the “biggest” number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

‘Shocking’

“The COVID-19 cases in India is 30,000 only because of Kerala. The State allowed three days of relaxation of restrictions despite a test positivity rate of over 10%. The rate in U.P. is just .02%... Someone should be made accountable. You are basically unable to govern the State... This is shocking,” he argued.

Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar and advocate G. Prakash, for Kerala, countered that the government’s decision was based on the “situation on the ground”. Mr. Kumar said the relaxation was given for three days between July 18 and 20. “Anyway it is ending today,” the senior lawyer noted.

But the court pointed to what happened on July 19. “In the ‘D’ category areas, all these shops selling textile, footwear , jewellery, etc were enabled to function on July 19 despite the stringent restrictions placed in these localities,” it stated.


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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 12:45:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/supreme-court-on-bakrid-in-kerala/article35419239.ece

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