The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the Kerala government’s decision to relax Covid-19 protocols in the state ahead of the festival of Eid-al-Adha, or Bakrid, was “uncalled for”, Live Law reported. The court also warned that it will take action against the state government if the decision results in the spread of the coronavirus infection.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had announced a three-day relaxation in the rules from Sunday. The government notification also allowed shops in areas under Category D – where positivity rate is above 15% – to remain open for a day on July 19.
The government’s decision was despite the fact that Kerala has been reporting the highest number of daily cases among Indian states for weeks. On Monday, the state recorded 9,931 new cases with a positivity rate of 11.08%.
Delhi resident PKD Nambiar challenged the state government’s decision in an intervention application in the suo motu case the Supreme Court was hearing on the Uttar Pradesh government’s move to allow the annual pilgrimage of Kanwar Yatra in the state.
On Monday, the Kerala government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on the matter.
In its response, the Vijayan government submitted that trader organisations in the state had said that they will open shops in violation of the Covid-19 regulations, Bar and Bench reported. The government said that the relaxations were allowed to “alleviate the misery” of traders and bring them some respite from economic slowdown during the festive season.
However, a two-judge bench of Justices Rohinton Nariman and BR Gavai noted that pressure groups cannot interfere with fundamental rights of the citizens of the country. “To give in to pressure groups so that the citizenry of India is then laid bare to a nationwide pandemic discloses a sordid state of affairs,” the court observed, according to Live Law.
The court did not accept Nambiar’s application as the relaxation for shops in areas where the positivity rate is above 15% was only for Monday and an order on the matter would no longer be of any use. But, the judges warned the Kerala government of action in case the pandemic situation in the state worsens.
“If as a result of these policies, any untoward spread of Covid disease takes place, any member of public may bring this to the notice of this court, after which this court may take appropriate action,” the judges said.
The court did not quash the Kerala government notification as it could not allow Nambiar’s application. But, the bench directed the Vijayan government to follow its orders in the Kanwar Yatra case.
“The relaxation for one day to Category D areas was wholly uncalled for,” the court said. “We direct the state of Kerala to give heed to Article 21 of the Constitution read with Article 144 of the Constitution and follow our directions given in the UP [Uttar Pradesh] case.”
In the Kanwar Yatra case, on June 16, the court ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to reconsider its decision to allow the pilgrimage. “The health of citizenry of India and right to life is paramount, all other sentiments whether be religious is subservient to this basic fundamental right,” it observed.
A day later, the Uttar Pradesh government cancelled the Yatra in view of the pandemic situation.