The Supreme Court today granted an interim stay on the Allahabad High Court order calling for a lockdown in the State of Uttar Pradesh on account of the COVID-19 situation.
There will be no lockdown in five top Uttar Pradesh cities for now. An order by the Allahabad High Court last evening, challenged by the UP government, has been paused by the Supreme Court. Uttar Pradesh has been asked to report to the Supreme Court within a week the steps it has taken and plans to take to tackle the Covid surge.
The Allahabad High Court had ordered a lockdown till April 26 in Lucknow, Prayagraj, Varanasi, Kanpur and Gorakhpur. The Yogi Adityanath-led government refused to enforce it last evening and approached the Supreme Court this morning.
Claiming that there was no empirical evidence on the basis of which the High Court could order for such a lockdown, the State claimed that the order was the outcome of an irresistible belief of the Court that imposition of lockdown was the only way to break the chain of infection. The appeal goes on to enlist the steps taken by the government thus far to curb the spread of the virus.
The Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian issued a notice in the appeal filed by the Uttar Pradesh government returnable in two weeks.
The Court, however, made it clear that the UP government has to report back to the High Court on the steps taken by it to deal with the pandemic situation.
SG Mehta submitted that lockdown in the five cities by judicial orders may not be the correct approach. The Court ultimately decided to grant an interim stay on the High Court’s directions to the State government.
The Uttar Pradesh government argued that locking down five cities by judicial order “may not be the right approach” and a “blanket lockdown imposed by the High Court in five cities would create immense administrative difficulties.”
“I share the concern of the court. Several steps have been taken,” said Tushar Mehta, representing the UP government, but added that some of what had been ordered by the High Court was already in place.
The High Court, while ordering the cities to shut down, had said on Monday that the pandemic had “virtually incapacitated our medical infrastructure…especially in cities like Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur and Gorakhpur”
The UP government said such a lockdown was not needed and it had to protect both lives and livelihoods.
The High Court had also ordered a ban on social gatherings, religious activities, and said shops, educational institutions and shopping malls should be closed.
On a day UP reported a record 30,000-plus new cases in 24 hours, the court also ordered the shutting of all businesses barring those offering financial services, medical or health services, industrial and scientific establishments, and those providing essential services.
The Allahabad High Court had on Monday taken a dim view of the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic situation in UP and proceeded to issue a slew of directions virtually amounting to a lockdown in five cities of the State till April 26.
“Those in the helm of affairs of governance are to be blamed for the present chaotic health problems and more so when there is a democracy which means a government of the people, by the people and for the people,” the order passed by a Bench of Justices Ajit Kumar and Siddhartha Varma stated.
The UP government, however, made it clear that it would not implement a lockdown in the State.