SC asks Kerala to explain easing of COVID curbs for Bakrid

The Asian Age With Agency Inputs  | Pramod Kumar

India, All India

The Supreme Court will hold a hearing on this on Tuesday

Supreme Court. (PTI)

New Delhi: Closing the suo motu case against the Uttar Pradesh government after the cancellation of the Kanwar Yatra, the Supreme Court on Monday turned its guns on the Kerala government for its relaxation of the Covid-19 lockdown norms in view of the coming Id-ul-Zuha (Bakrid) festival, directing the state government to file its response by Monday evening. The Supreme Court will hold a hearing on this on Tuesday. A plea had been filed in the court against the lifting of these restrictions.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had announced the concessions at a press conference on Saturday and said that in view of Bakrid being celebrated on July 21, textiles, footwear shops, jewellery, fancy stores, shops selling home appliances and electronic items, all types of repairing shops and shops selling essential items shall be allowed to open on July 18-20 from 7 am to 8 pm in category A, B and C areas. The areas had been categorised based on the test positivity rate.

The matter came up for hearing before a bench of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and B.R. Gavai, which also took note of the affidavit filed by the Uttar Pradesh government which said that no Kanwar Yatra will be allowed this year in the state due to the pandemic.

After the counsel appearing for Kerala said he would file the reply, the bench asked him to do so during the day and said it would take up the matter for hearing as first item on Tuesday.

The application, which raised the issue of relaxation in restrictions in Kerala, was filed by Delhi-based P.K.D. Nambiar, who has sought stay on the state's decision. Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the applicant, told the bench that the Covid positivity rate in Kerala was over 10 per cent, but despite that the restrictions were relaxed for Bakrid.

He said Kerala was among the states with the highest number of Covid-19 cases at present and it had a high positivity rate. He said the positivity rate in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi was 0.02 per cent and 0.07 per cent respectively. The bench observed that in UP’s case it was “allegedly 0.02 per cent”.

On July 16, the Supreme Court had observed all sentiments, including religious, were subservient to the right to life and had asked the Uttar Pradesh government to inform it by July 19 whether it would reconsider its move for a symbolic Kanwar Yatra. The Uttarakhand government had earlier cancelled the annual ritual that sees thousands of Shiva devotees called “kanwariyas” travel mostly on foot to get water from the Ganga and bring it back to their villages.

On July 18, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority also prohibited the Kanwar Yatra in the city to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Advocate G. Prakash, appearing for Kerala, told the court: “Only some shops have been opened in Kerala. Lockdown has been lifted squarely for this reason in some areas for facilitating the festival… Each day we are publishing Covid positive cases. We will file a detailed reply.”

Appearing for another intervenor, senior advocate K Radhakrishnan argued that all social and religious congregations should be suspended till at least 80 per cent of the population was vaccinated. The court took the submission on record. He wanted the Centre and state government to be vigilant to contain the infection of contagious diseases which can spread across states.