Hindustan Times (East UP)
Top court stays order on curbs in UP cities
CM announces weekend corona curfew
NEW DELHI/LUCKNOW: Hours after the Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the Allahabad high court’s Monday order directing the Uttar Pradesh government to impose strict restrictions till April 26 in five cities due to the surge in Covid-19 cases, the state government reiterated it will not impose a lockdown in the state as of now and explained why.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, ordered for an interim stay after the state government moved an appeal against the high court order passed a day ago.
The state government welcomed the Supreme Court decision.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, representing the UP government, said that the judicial directions regarding complete lockdown in Lucknow, Prayagraj, Kanpur Nagar, Varanasi and Gorakhpur were not warranted since the state was mindful of the situations and was already taking all possible steps to contain the spread of Covid-19.
“Several steps are taken in that direction and we can satisfy the conscience of this court. Some of them, we are already doing and we don’t object to some other. But it may not be the right approach to order lockdown in five cities because there are several other factors that also need to be considered,” argued the S-G.
“To impose such drastic measures, the administrative machinery of the State has to be made well equipped at a stage anterior (in advance) so as to ensure that no panic and fear is spread amongst the public and all the logistical support and supply lines to give either cooked or uncooked food to the needy is established,” the government said.
Hours after the hearing in the SC, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath announced a two-day weekend corona curfew from 8pm on Friday to 7am on Monday. In addition, no activities, barring essential services, will be allowed from 8pm to 7am daily in districts that have over 500 active Covid-19 cases. The measures were announced on a day on which Uttar Pradesh reported 163 more deaths and 29,754 fresh cases.
The government had earlier given a shorter explanation on Monday soon after the Allahabad high court asked it to enforce closure in five cities —Lucknow, Prayagraj, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar, and Gor
“The state government already took many strict measures for preventing the spread of the infection and it was the government’s priority not only to save lives, but also save the livelihood of people,” the government had said.
Earlier in the day on Tuesday, the Supreme Court bench, which also included justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, accepted Mehta’s submission and ordered an interim stay on the high court order, recording Mehta’s statement that the state government has issued several directions to contain the spread of coronavirus disease and was taking adequate precautions at their own.
At the same time, the apex court directed that the “state government shall immediately report to the high court about the steps it has taken and proposes to take in the immediate future within a period of one week in view of the current pandemic”.
The court, however, decided to keep the matter pending before it and appointed senior advocate PS Narasimha as the amicus curiae to assist it in the case after two weeks.
Following the HC order on Monday, the five cities in UP had be placed under curbs from last night till April 26 to arrest the spread of the coronavirus disease. The HC directed the state government to close all establishments, private or government-run, in these cities while exempting only those offering essential services.
The order was passed by a bench of Justice Siddhartha Varma and Justice Ajit Kumar. It noted the recent Covid-19 surge in these cities has “virtually incapacitated” Uttar Pradesh’s entire medical infrastructure.
The state government rushed to appeal against this order before the Supreme Court. Advocate Rajat Nair drafted the appeal overnight and the S-G secured an urgent hearing from the CJI on Tuesday itself.
The state government, in its appeal, said that although the intention behind the HC order was laudable and salutary, the HC has failed to appreciate that it encroached upon the executive domain and has passed a mandamus, which was incapable of being executed at the present stage, and if executed, would result into panic, fear
and law and order situation in UP.
“There was no empirical data before the Hon’ble High Court to compel it to arrive at a conclusion that lockdown/total curfew for a week was to the only way to break the chain of Covid-19 infection,” stated the petition, adding the modalities which needed to be worked upon before imposing a lockdown essentially fell within the domain of executives.
The state added: “The impugned order, which is passed without even considering the steps taken by the petitioner, is therefore liable to be set aside for this reason alone as it not only encroaches upon the executive domain but effectively ventures into the arena of governance by breaching the salutary principles of separation of powers between the judiciary and executive.”
The UP government also contested the observations made by the HC about spending money on conducting the local body polls and prioritising it over the public health, saying these remarks were not based on cogent evidence.
“The said observations are at best founded on hearsay narrative which is circulated for extraneous reasons on social and other form of media. It is submitted that holding of elections is an essential democratic function of the State. Furthermore, the said elections were conducted as per the orders passed by this Hon’ble Court and in a manner decided by the election commission of India,” said the plea.
In its special leave petition submitted in the Supreme Court, the UP government also said it was making free arrangements for the migrant workers returning home due to the lockdown in Delhi and Maharashtra. It has also ordered the setting up of quarantine centres for migrant labourers in every district of the state.
NEW DELHI: Soon after chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a six-day curfew in Delhi beginning 10pm on Monday, migrants began pouring into interstate bus terminals and private bus depots around Anand Vihar and Ghazipur in Delhi and Kaushambi in Ghaziabad, in scenes reminiscent of the mass exodus of people from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, who gathered in thousands at Anand Vihar after the Union government announced a lockdown in March 2020.
However, there was no extra crowding at railway stations, and other interstate bus terminals such as Kashmere Gate, from where buses towards Punjab, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh ply. Anand Vihar is the interstate bus terminal for most destinations in UP.
While announcing the restrictions on Monday to arrest an unprecedented rise in Covid-19 cases and fatalities that has overwhelmed health facilities in the Capital, Kejriwal said the decision to impose a lockdown was not an easy one for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government as it hurts the poor and daily wage workers the most.
“I appeal to people not to leave Delhi during the lockdown. We will take care of you. I am there to ensure it,” he said.
Within hours of the announcement, however, crowds swelled at Anand Vihar, and across the road at Kaushambi. Crowds were also seen on the main road towards Ghazipur, from where several private buses head to UP and Bihar. There were snarls on both carriageways between Anand Vihar and the Ghazipur roundabout.
“Our factories will shut due to this new lockdown. As Covid-19 cases are increasing rapidly in Delhi, and there is uncertainty about the number of days this curfew will continue for, it’s better for us to return to our family, rather than suffer here. I had returned to Delhi in September
after last year’s lockdown,” said Mohammad Rashid from Lucknow, who works in a jeans-stitching factory in Seelampur.
The foot-overbridge connecting Kaushambi and Anand Vihar bus terminal, railway and Metro stations, remained packed beyond capacity. Another foot-overbridge, near East Delhi Mall, was also packed.
“There are nearly 8,000 migrants around Anand Vihar bus terminal who are waiting for buses to their home towns. The number is increasing. Our maximum deployment is in these areas to maintain law and order and facilitate migrants in every way possible. We are in touch with the transport department officials to arrange extra buses for these migrants,” said additional deputy commissioner of police (east) Sanjay Sehrawat.
While a majority of the passengers reached the terminals in auto-rickshaws, men carrying luggage on their heads and shoulders, and women holding their babies in one arm and bags in the other, were seen walking on the pavements towards the bus terminals.
The crowd was bigger at Kaushambi than at Anand Vihar. “We are witnessing an increase in passengers at our bus terminals for the last two-three days. The numbers started increasing from Monday morning. Some of them were migrants who were returning because of their experience last year,” said Punit Sethi, state manager of ISBT,
Ajit Mishra, an agent working for multiple bus services between Delhi and Bihar, said the announcement was followed by a surge in demand for tickets.
“There is a 20%-30% increase in demands already. Unlike earlier, when we would receive requests for one or two tickets at once, I am now getting requests for booking 10-15 seats at one go,” said Mishra.
Sachidanand Sinha, a professor with the Centre for the Study of Regional Development at Jawaharlal Nehru’s School of Social Sciences, said the migrants were leaving again because of their “bitter experience” in 2020.
“First, they were scared of the rising Covid-19 cases, and now because of the lockdown... It’s a grim situation because the migrants who are returning are potential carriers of Covid-19. They will infect others, and in this way, Delhi’s test positivity ratio of one positive case out of three samples may be witnessed across India,” said Sinha.
THE STATE GOVT RUSHED TO APPEAL AGAINST THIS ORDER BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT. THE S-G SECURED AN URGENT HEARING FROM THE CJI ON TUESDAY ITSELF.
There is uncertainty about the number of days this curfew will continue for, it’s better to return to our family, rather than suffer here.
MOHAMMAD RASHID , migrant worker from Lucknow