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COVID-19: In relief to Yogi government, SC stays Allahabad HC order imposing lockdown in five UP cities


NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted an interim stay on Allahabad High Court order directing the state of Uttar Pradesh to impose strict restrictions till April 26 in five cities amid COVID-19 surge

It also asked the Yogi Adityanath government to submit before the HC its various steps and measures taken to control the pandemic, within a week, while appointing senior advocate P S Narasimha as amicus curiae to assist it in future hearings in the matter.

"Allahabad HC order imposing lockdown in five cities will create immense administrative difficulties. Such a drastic step by a judicial order may not be right approach," the UP government told SC while apparaising then apex court about the steps to improve the deterioting pandemic situation in state.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta mentioned the matter for urgent listing before a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde.

Mehta, while referring to the high court's order passed on Monday, said that "a virtual lockdown is declared by a judicial order for a week".

He requested the bench to take up the matter during the day saying the matter relates to five big cities of the state.

"Ok," the bench said, adding that the matter would be heard at the end of board.

The high court had directed the Uttar Pradesh government to impose strict restrictions including closing of malls, shopping complexes and restaurants till April 26 in five cities, but stopped short of calling it a "complete lockdown".

Allahabad, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur, Nagar and Gorakhpur are the cities in which the high court has directed curbs.

The high court had said these curbs are "nowhere close to a complete lockdown".

While mentioning the matter, Mehta told the bench that the state government is challenging the high court order.

"Please allow me to circulate it today. These are five big cities," Mehta said.

The high court had slammed the state government for "not planning" for a second wave of the pandemic, and criticised the State Election Commission for holding the panchayat elections at this time and "exposing" poll officials to the threat of virus.

"If we have not imposed a lockdown it does not mean that we do not believe in it. We are still of the view that if we want to break the chain a lockdown for a duration of at least two weeks is a must."

"It is a shame that while the Government knew of the magnitude of the second wave it never planned things in advance," said the high court order.

It had also directed the government to "consider imposition of a complete lockdown in the entire state for at least two weeks".

Reacting to the order, the UP government said there would be no "complete lockdown" in the cities for now.

During the course of the hearing on a PIL on the condition of quarantine centres in the state and treatment of coronavirus patients, the high court had observed, "One would only laugh at us that we have enough to spend on elections and very little to spend on public health. One cannot even imagine what will happen if only 10% of the city population gets infected and needs medical help in hospitals. How the government will manage with the presently existing infrastructure is anybody's guess."

The high court said if people are restrained from going out of their homes for a week in the first instance, the current chain of spread of the COVID-19 infection can be broken.

"Accordingly, we are passing the directions in respect of cities of Prayagraj (Allahabad), Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar and Gorakhpur and we direct the government to strictly enforce them forthwith," it said.

"All establishments be it government or private, except financial institutions and financial departments, medical and health services, industrial and scientific establishments, essential services including municipal functions, and public transport, shall remain closed till 26th April, 2021. The judiciary will, however, function on its own discretion," the high court said.

It further directed the government to ensure that grocery shops and other commercial shops excluding medical shops, with more than three workers be closed.

Likewise, all malls, shopping complexes, restaurants, eateries shall remain close till April 26, it had said, adding all religious places shall also remain close for the period and no social function except marriage should be allowed.