A writ petition is filed in the Gujarat High Court to quash an order by Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner dated 06/05/2020. The Municipality order shuts down all shops except milk and medicine stores for a period of nine days.
The order which was issued around 5 pm lead to a sudden rush at the grocery stores. The aggravated situation was owed to the 7 pm deadline fixed by the Central Government to close shops. Consequently, the petitioner has filed the present petition to issue directions against the respondents.
Advocate Neel Lakhani represented the petitioner, Mr Harshit Indravadan Shah, a lawyer, social activist and resident of Ahmedabad. The respondents are the State of Gujarat and the Municipal Commissioner of Ahmedabad.
The Ahmedabad bench of Gujarat High Court shall hear the matter.
The issues presented in the petition
The issues mentioned in the petition with regards to the state machinery are as follow:
- If it failed to perform its duty properly.
- Whether it has failed to protect and provide a safe and secure life for its people.
- If the actions of state machinery increased the threat to the life of its people.
- Whether such a hasty order amounts undue harassment to the people at large.
Analysis of the petition
The filed petition comes under the expansive scope of Article 21 guaranteeing ‘right to life’ and Article 226 stating the writ jurisdiction of the High Court. On grounds of illegality, arbitrariness and unreasonableness, the impugned order has been challenged. Hence, a gross violation of fundamental rights. The actions of the respondent have resulted in a threat to life and livelihood of people of Ahmedabad.
The order is evidently in conflict with the guidelines of the Central Government and announcements made by the Prime Minister. People did not stock up on essential commodities. Since the Municipal Commissioner’s order reversed the situation, people had to expose themselves to a crowded market for the purchase of a necessary item in a short period of time, precisely, two hours. The circumstances created undue fear, threat and hardships for the people. The passing of the order which hampered the lives and livelihoods of its stakeholders had no state declared basis or criteria.
The petition also highlights the non-availability of medical assistance at government medical facilities. The treatment available in private hospitals are expensive and the majority of people have to rely on government schemes. The people were sent back home for home quarantine despite announcements about the availability of quarantine centres. Thus, the lack of access to reliable information is adding to the plight of the sufferers.
The collector allegedly gave permission to police personnel for using lathi charge against person disobeying the norms as reported by various news reports. Despite these completely unauthorized and illegal acts, there has been another discrepancy in the protocols. The unarmed category of police personnel still keeps lathi as a weapon. The directions violate provisions under section 135 of the Gujarat Police Act, 1951.
Prayer before the Court
The petitioners are seeking relief in the following ways:
- To direct the respondents to give appropriate time duration for purchase and any alternative remedy before passing any order in haste or sudden implementation of such orders.
- To quash and set aside the impugned order on the grounds stated earlier. Liberty may be reserved to pass any fresh order providing a fair opportunity to people for making necessary arrangements of essential food items when the order is in force.
- To hold and declare the Municipal Commissioner solely liable for resultant spread of COVID- 19 virus due to a large crowd gathering in different parts of the city. The order was unnecessary and arbitrary and create a panic situation.
- Direct the respondents to arrange for sufficient medical and testing facilities for the people infected with coronavirus or having symptoms of the same.
- To restraint the police personnel from indulging in physical violence or inflicting lathi on innocent people being victims of the unnecessary order passed by the respondents.
- Instruct respondents for taking appropriate disciplinary action against the airing police personnel for keeping weapon like lathi though belonging to the category of unarmed police during the implementation of weapon prohibition and proclamation of Collector.
Current Statistics in Ahmedabad
Ahemadabad alone has contributed to 75% of the 8542 reported cases in the state of Gujarat till 12.05.2020.
According to an interview with Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, the cases in Ahmedabad are from cluster regions i.e. 20 % area of Ahmedabad has 80% of cases.
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