The Delhi High Court on Friday dismissed a public interest litigation filed by a law student challenging the Centre’s May 30 order for a phased reopening of the country outside containment zones, PTI reported. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 20,000 on the petitioner, Arjun Aggarwal.

A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad said that the decision to lift the nationwide lockdown, which began on March 25 and ended after four phases on May 31, was not taken hastily. The judges said that the Centre had to strike a balance between limiting the spread of the coronavirus and making sure that people were not forced into starvation because of lack of economic activity.

“Many were left shelterless,” the bench said according to IANS. “Several lakhs of migrant labourers had to walk on foot and go back to their native places. The economic situation of the country has taken a terrible hit due to the lockdown. In fact, many analysts have opined that the lockdown has caused more human suffering than Covid-19 itself.”

The judges added that the lockdown also cost many people their jobs. “World over, the trend is now to reduce the restrictions which were imposed due to lockdown and to return to normal life,” the bench added.

The court said that it had cautioned the student during the hearing that if he pushes for the plea, the bench would be constrained to dismiss it with costs. The court added that it had bothered to issue a prior warning only because Aggarwal is a law student.

“Despite that, counsel for the petitioner upon taking instructions from the petitioner, continued to addressing arguments, wasting valuable judicial time,” the court observed. “We deprecate this conduct of the petitioner. The writ petition is accordingly dismissed along with pending application with costs of Rs 20,000.” The judges alleged that Aggarwal filed the petition only to gain publicity.

Aggarwal had told the court that the country has been reopened keeping only economic considerations in mind, without regard for the well being of the people. He said there will be a surge in coronavirus infections due to the reopening.

However, the High Court pointed out that some economists had predicted that the Indian economy would experience negative growth in the 2020-’21 financial year. It added that production came to a complete halt in the country during the period of lockdown.

“People have become unemployed which raises grave concerns regarding the law and order situation in the country,” the bench said. “The government is expected to remain cognizant of the situation and evaluate it closely. If it is found that the rate of infection is going up, they can always review their decision and impose curbs, depending upon the situation.”

India reported 10,956 new coronavirus cases and 396 deaths in 24 hours earlier in the day, the highest single-day spike so far. With this, the tally rose to 2.97 lakh cases and the toll from the disease stood at 8,498. India is now the fourth most-affected country in the world as it has overtaken the United Kingdom, which has 2.92 lakh cases.

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