New Delhi [India], July 19 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Kerala government's response on plea against its decision of easing restrictions ahead of Eid-ul-Azha (Bakrid) when the state is witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases and test positivity rate.
A Bench headed by Justice Rohinton F Nariman asked Kerala to file its response today itself and said the matter will be heard on Tuesday.
At the outset, senior advocate Vikas Singh appearing for petitioner PKD Nambiar who has filed an intervention application against the Kerala government's decision to relax restrictions told the Bench that Kerala has the highest cases in the country today.
"It's surprising to know that Kerala still has increasing numbers when others have suppressed the situation. Kerala has an official positivity rate of 10.96 per cent and yet the relaxation has been granted. Kerala has 13,000 cases whereas Uttar Pradesh has much less COVID cases. The court should pass orders quashing the relaxation," Singh said.
Advocate G Prakash appearing for the Kerala government told the apex court that only some shops have been opened in Kerala. Lockdown has been lifted squarely for this reason in some areas for facilitating the festival otherwise all norms for COVID-19 are strictly followed, said the counsel.
The intervention application was filed in the suo moto cognizance taken by the top court against the earlier decision of the Uttar Pradesh government to hold Kanwar Yatra.
The application cited news reports and said that the Kerala government is ready to sacrifice the lives of innocent citizens by relaxing restrictions.
It stated that despite the discontentment of the Supreme Court over Kanwar Yatra, the Kerala government is acting in a casual manner by relaxing restrictions to the utter dismay of India's citizens.
The plea alleged that the decision has been taken without any consultation from the medical department, rather, the decision is taken in view of discussions between Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and leaders of the trader's body 'Kerala Vyapari Vyavasaay E-Kopana Samiti'.
"The political interest and cause cannot overcome the fundamental rights of the citizens of this nation. The said act of the government of Kerala is nothing but politically motivated, moreover, the said decision is totally contrary to the observation and the spirit qua which this Court has shown its concern over the present pitiable situation of this Nation," stated the application.
The intervention application said that the decision outweighed the interest of the public and is borne from "political and communal considerations".
The largest body of doctors in India, the Indian Medical Association on Sunday warned the Kerala government against easing restrictions ahead of Bakrid.
Amid the ongoing pandemic, the Kerala government on Friday relaxed COVID-19 lockdown restrictions from July 18 to 20 for the festival in view of Eid-ul-Azha. Shops selling clothes, footwear, electronics, jewellery, etc, will be permitted to stay open till 8 pm.
Kerala is among the worst COVID-affected states in the country and is still recovering from the devastating effects of the second COVID-19 wave, with daily cases hovering between 10,000 to 15,000 for the last few weeks.
Bakrid may be observed on July 20 or July 21, depending on the sighting of the moon.
Kerala government's decision came amidst the rising cases in the state and even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi had cautioned against mass gatherings and many states have cancelled pilgrimage yatras.
The Uttar Pradesh government has decided to cancel the Kanwar Yatra this year, citing a decision by groups representing the pilgrims. The Supreme Court gave the state of Uttar Pradesh till today's time to ban the annual pilgrimage over Covid-19 risks.
This is the second year the yatra has been cancelled due to the pandemic. Last year too, the Kanwar sanghs had publicly announced they will not arrange camps. (ANI)