Kerala easing Covid curbs for Eid a sorry state of affairs: SC | India News

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday passed a stricture against the Pinarayi Vijayan administration in Kerala for succumbing to traders’ pressure to relax Covid lockdown norms for Eid shopping even when the ‘God’s own country’ had a high Covid positivity rate with more than 1.2 lakh active cases.
A bench of Justices R F Nariman and B R Gavai used terms like “alarming state of affairs” and “sorry state of affairs” to describe the CPM-led coalition’s decision to relax lockdown norms even in areas with 15% positivity rate and castigated the state for “laying bare the right of life of citizens to Covid”.
However, it did not strike down the Kerala government notification allowing three-day relaxations in Covid lockdown norms for Eid shopping, restricting itself to issuing a warning that if Covid cases register a spike later due to opening of shops for Eid, the authorities concerned would be taken to task. This was in contrast to its strident stand against permitting Kanwar yatra, which was scheduled to commence from July 25 in Uttar Pradesh.
The same bench had left the Yogi Adityanath government with no choice on the Kanwar Yatra — either the state stops it or the SC would direct it. This ultimatum forced UP to convince Kanwar organisations to voluntarily postpone the Yatras. At the time of hearing, UP was reporting less than 100 cases daily and had a total caseload of 1,100. Kerala has a daily caseload of around 12,000.
Justifying the relaxation notification at a time when the state is reporting a high number of Covid cases, the Kerala government said, “Bakri-Eid, the holy festival of Muslims is being celebrated on July 21. The traders were expecting that Bakri-Eid sales would alleviate their misery to a certain extent. They have stocked up the goods for this purpose much earlier. The organisation of traders started to agitate against the stringent curbs… declared that they will open shops all over the state flouting the regulations. The opposition political parties also raised the traders’ issue in the public domain and demanded more relaxations in the curbs to give some respite to the traders and to allow some economic activities in the state.”
The bench agreed with petitioner P K D Nambiar’s counsel Vikas Singh, who described the notification as shocking. Singh said religious festivities cannot be a ground for relaxation in a state which is the major contributor of Covid cases to the country’s daily tally. “If one does it for Bakri-Eid, the others will do it for Holi and Diwali,” he said.
The bench said, “…the affidavit read with this notification discloses that the state government has given in to associations of traders who represented before the government that they have stocked up goods for the purpose of Bakri-Eid very early. The state also blithely records that the opening of shops will strictly follow Covid protocols and they are ready to follow additional regulations ordered by the State, if any.”
“What is extremely alarming is the fact that in Category D, where infections are the highest i.e. 15%, a full day of relaxation has been granted, which was yesterday (July19). It is then stated that, as far as possible, the persons visiting shops and other establishments may belong to those with at least one dose of vaccine/Covid recovered category and follow strict Covid protocols,… along with the CM’s appeal,” the bench said.
“The aforesaid facts disclose an alarming state of affairs. 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. Even otherwise, homilies such as ‘as far as possibl’ and assurances from traders without anything more, do not inspire any confidence in the people of India or this court,” it said.
Justices Nariman and Gavai said, “We may only indicate that this affidavit discloses a sorry state of affairs as has been stated herein above, 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. It may also be pointed out that the relaxation for one day to a Category D area (with over 15% positivity rate) was wholly uncalled for. In these circumstances, we direct Kerala to give heed to Article 21 read with Article 144 of the Constitution, and follow the law laid down in our orders in the Uttar Pradesh case (Kanwar Yatra).”
Having decried the Eid-related relaxation by the Kerala government, the bench made a general remark that no government should buckle under pressure from any group, religious or otherwise. “Also, pressure groups of all kinds, religious or otherwise, cannot in any manner, interfere with this most precious fundamental right of all the citizens of India. We may also indicate that if as a result of the July 17 notification, any untoward spread in the Covid-19 disease takes place, any member of the public may bring this to the notice of this court, after which this court will take necessary action against those who are responsible.”



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