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The Delhi High Court yesterday dismissed a petition challenging the Central Government's May 30 order on re–opening non-containment zones and permitting certain prohibited activities from June 8. (Arjun Aggarwal vs UOI)
The petition was dismissed with costs of Rs 20,000.
The order was passed by a Division Bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad in the petitioon preferred by a final-year law student at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University.
It was the Petitioner, Arjun Aggarwal's stance that Central Government "inexplicably erred" in issuing the May 30 order on "Guidelines for Phased Reopening" and it was ex facie unsustainable in law.
The order, the Petitioner contended, effectively resulted in the Centre shrugging off its constitutional responsibility to safeguard the fundamental rights of its citizens to a healthy life and would also result in rampant spread of COVID-19.
In view of the submissions, the Court took judicial notice of the fact that the lockdown indeed resulted in loss of jobs of several lakhs of people and had severely impacted the economy.
"Scores of people were forced to walk considerable distance during the lockdown and stand in long queues at Food distribution centers just to have two square meals a day. Several have gone hungry and were not able to get one meal. Many were left shelterless. Several lakhs of migrant labour 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. Economists have forecasted that Indian economy will shrink as a result of the steps taken to contain Corona virus pandemic.", it said.
The Court, however, remarked that in order to ensure a proper balance between containing the spread of COVID-19 and ensuring that people are not forced into starvation, the Central Government introduced the May 30 order on phased re-reopening of certain activities.
The Court opined that the decision to kickstart certain activities was not taken in haste and the same could always be reviewed by the Government.
"The re-opening has been directed in a phased manner and is not a decision that appears to have been taken in haste. 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.", it said.
The Court further reiterated that the scope of judicial review of government policies was limited and courts could not act as an appellate authority to examine the correctness, suitability and appropriateness of the policy.
Holding that it was the illegality of a policy which could be the subject matter of judicial review, the Court stated,
In view of the above, the petition was dismissed with costs of Rs 20,000 for wasting judicial wasting.
The amount has to be deposited with the Delhi High Court Bar Association Lawyers' Security and Welfare Fund within a period of two weeks.
Petitioner was represented by Advocates Apratim Animesh Thakur, Sugam Kumar Jha, Nikita Chitale.
ASG Maninder Acharya with Standing Counsel Jasmeet Singh, CGSC appeared for Centre.
Read the order: