The Allahabad High Court took a dim view of the COVID-19 pandemic situation in Uttar Pradesh (UP) on (April 19, 2021), issuing a slew of directions that effectively placed the state on lockdown until (April 26, 2021). In Lucknow, even the Chief Minister is isolated. "We cannot remain, mere observers, if the popular government has its own political compulsions in not checking public movements during a pandemic," the Court said.
A bench of Justices ‘Ajit Kumar’ and ‘Siddhartha Varma’ chastised the government for its lack of response, warning that if immediate steps are not taken, the medical system could collapse. Even the State's Chief Minister is alone, according to the Court, and only VIPs receive medical attention. "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. Even supply of life-saving antiviral drug namely Remdesivire is being provided only on the recommendation of VIPs. Even the Chief Minister of the State is in isolation in Lucknow," the order said.
The court stated that in any civilised society if the public health system is not able to meet the challenges and people die for want of proper medication, it means there has been no proper development. "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 read.
The Court further stated that public health is the most important concern and call of the hour and that any level of complacency today would create havoc for 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," it noted.
The Court, therefore, issued the following orders to the State authorities to be enforced in the cities of Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar and Gorakhpur:
- 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;
- All shopping complexes and malls shall remain closed till 26th April, 2021;
- All grocery shops and other commercial shops excluding medical shops, with more than three workers shall remain closed till 26th April, 2021;
- All hotels, restaurants and even the small eating points on thelas etc. shall remain closed till 26th April, 2021;
- All institutions like educational institutions and other institutions relating to other disciplines and activities be it government, semi government or private shall remain closed including for their teachers and instructors and other staff till 26th April, 2021 (this direction is for the whole of Uttar Pradesh);
- No social functions and gatherings including marriage functions shall be permitted till 26th April, 2021. However, in case of already fixed marriages a necessary further permission would have to be taken from the District Magistrate of the concerned district. Gatherings would be limited to 25 persons and the district magistrate concerned shall take decision after giving due consideration to the prevailing situation of the impact of Covid 19 including notification of containment zones in the area where such marriage has to take place;
- All religious activities in public of any kind is directed to remain suspended till 26th April, 2021;
- All religious establishments of any kind are directed to remain closed till 26th April, 2021;
- All hawkers including fruits and vegetable vendors, milk vendors and bread vendors, shall go off the road by 11 AM every day till 26th April, 2021;
- Containment zones shall be notified every day in two leading Hindi and English newspapers having wide circulation in the districts of Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar/ Dehat and Gorakhpur.
- All public movements on roads would remain restricted completely, subject to above directions. Movements would be only allowed in case of medical help and emergencies.
The Court also urged the State to make sure the current vaccination program is implemented in a robust way."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," the Court said.
The government was thus urged to consider imposing a complete lockdown of two weeks throughout the State.
Despite the order passed by the Allahabad High Court in public interest, the Yogi Government has denied conformance with it.
"UP Government will not impose a complete lockdown in the cities but impose strict restrictions. The UP Government is submitting its reply before the Court on its observations," Navneet Sehgal, ACS- Information quoted on the matter while stating that the State Government will not impose a complete lockdown.