The Telangana HC observed on 06.07.2020 that the Court cannot interfere with the policy decision unless the policy decision violates the fundamental rights of the Constitution.
Brief Facts of the Case
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has created health crises in the entire world. The Government of Telangana has imposed a lockdown on 22.03.2020. The Government has imposed a lockdown for the interest of public health and safety. There was partial relaxation from time to time to the lockdown norms.
From 08.06.2020, the State has permitted further relaxation on the lockdown. The relaxation is in the containment zones on the activities of the following places:
1. Religious places/places of worship for the public.
2. Hotels, Restaurants, and other hospitality services.
3. Shopping malls (other than gaming centers and cinema halls.)
The petitioner is a Human Rights Activist. He has filed the PIL challenging the action of the State/respondent authorities. According to him, the action of the State is arbitrary, and illegal. This violates Articles 14, 19, 20, and 300-A of the Constitution of India.
Submission of the Petitioner
There is a drastic increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. The Government has suppressed the number of deaths of the patients. There is no transparency in media bulletins about the total tally of cases. He has given a reference to various news items in the national dailies, the “The Hindu” and “Times of India”. He has submitted that the health system is tottering. In the event of a sudden surge in the number of cases, the medical system would collapse. Thus, it may cause dearth of beds in hospitals. It may also cause hardship to public the poor strata of society. Hence, the Government should extend the lockdown instead of being rolled back.
Prayer of the Petitioner
The petitioner has sought consequential reliefs to –
- Firstly, direct extension of lockdown;
- Second, equip the entire public health system;
- Furthermore, provide safety precautions for the entire medical fraternity and the paramedic workers;
- Open religious places after reviewing the situation by an expert committee;
- Provide interim cash transfer of Rs.7,500/- for all White Ration card holders. That will help them sustaining for this month.
Observation of the Court
The Court cannot decide anything against the relaxation of lockdown. The Government will decide the certain activities outside the containment zones. The High Court has got limited jurisdiction. High Courts cannot interfere with the policy decisions of the State. Various factors prevail upon the State to relax the lockdown. The Court has given the reference of economic hardship and movement restrictions. The Court has mentioned the livelihood of worker class etc. There is no need to visit any religious place. Even, there is no need to visit hotels, restaurants or shopping malls. Health Bulletins are issued from time to time on daily basis. It includes cautioning general public to maintain social distancing. It also includes the usage of face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer etc.
Further Reasoning by Court
This Court cannot sit as an appellate Court over a policy decision of the State. Furthermore, the interference of Constitutional Courts in the policy decision is very limited. Courts can interference only when such a policy decision violates fundamental rights. Thus, the Courts can interfere with a policy decision only in the rarest of the rare cases. The power of judicial review is a plenary power. It is part of the basic structure of the Constitution of India. The policy-making is in the exclusive domain of executive authorities.
The strength of democracy depends upon each organ of the State. One organ has to respect the functions and decisions of the other organs. But, the smooth functioning of the Executive has no need for Judicial interference. Courts have to respect the decisions of the popular government. Therefore, the policy decision subserves the public interest. Hence, the state dispensation takes into consideration several factors before formulating any policy decision.
The Court cannot grant the said reliefs to the petitioner. It will amount to advising the Executive in the matter of policy decisions. Needless to say, the writ court cannot usurp and encroach upon the powers of the Executive. For, it would be an anathema both to the doctrine of separation of powers and to the system of democracy.
The decision of the Court
Hence, the Court did not find any merit in the writ petition. Hence the case was dismissed.
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