The Allahabad High Court on Monday criticised the Uttar Pradesh government for its handling of the sharp rise in Covid-19 cases and imposed a lockdown in Lucknow, Varanasi, Prayagraj, Kanpur and Gorakhpur till April 26, reported Live Law. However, the state government has refused to follow the High Court’s order, reported India Today.

Till Sunday night, Uttar Pradesh reported 30,596 new Covid-19 infections and 129 deaths – the state’s highest one-day jump in cases and fatalities since the pandemic began in January 2020.

Justices Ajit Kumar and Siddhartha Varma rebuked the state government for its lack of response, saying that the medical system may collapse if immediate steps were not taken, according to Bar and Bench. The court also noted that Chief Minister Adityanath was in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19 and that only certain patients were being prioritised for treatment in the state.

The court also said that if a “popular government has its own political compulsions” in failing to curb public movement then the court could not remain a mere spectator. The health of the public was the priority and any complacency would bring “havoc to people”.

“We can’t shirk away from our constitutional duty to save innocent people from the pandemic which is spreading due to the negligence of a few,” the High Court said, according to Bar and Bench. “In this order 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 said that “those in the helm of affairs of governance” were to blamed for the current chaos in the healthcare system, “more so when there is a democracy”.

The court also mentioned that the use of antiviral drug remdesivir seemed to be done at hospitals only “on the recommendation of VIPs”. “We find from the scenario that emerges from the government hospitals that admission of patients to ICUs are largely being done on the recommendation of VIPs,” the court added.

UP government refuses to follow HC order

However, the Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government refused to impose the lockdown that the Allahabad High Court ordered, India Today reported.

“Today in the order of the Hon’ble High Court, the spokesman of the UP government has conveyed that the corona[virus] cases have increased in the state and strictness is necessary for the control of the corona[virus],” the state government said. “Along with saving lives, the livelihood of the poor has to be saved. Therefore, there will not be a complete lockdown in the cities.”

The state administration also said that the residents of the state were “shutting down many places willingly”.

The court imposed the following restrictions in the five cities:

  1. All government and private establishments to remain closed till April 26. Those allowed to operate are financial institutions and departments, healthcare services, industrial and scientific establishments, and essential services, including public transport. This includes government, semi-government and private educational institutions.
  2. All shopping malls to be shut till April 26.
  3. Grocery stores and other commercial shops with over three employees to remain shut till April 26. This excludes medical stores.
  4. All restaurants and hotels, including roadside eateries or thelas to remain shut.
  5. No social events or gatherings, including weddings, shall be allowed till next Monday. However, in case of weddings that have already been fixed, a permission was required from the district magistrate. These gatherings would be restricted to 25 attendees. The district authority was instructed to take decisions after assessing the Covid-19 situation, including containment zones.
  6. All religious activities in public will remain suspended till April 26. Religious establishments would also be shut during this period.
  7. All hawkers, including fruits, milk and vegetable vendors, will not operate after 11 am every day till April 26.
  8. Public movement will be allowed only in case of medical help and emergencies.