The Bombay High Court's Nagpur bench on Monday sought a reply from the Maharashtra government to a petition challenging a circular issued by the State prohibiting door- to-door distribution of newspapers in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and continued rise in number of positive cases in the State.
Justice NW Sambre heard the petition filed by the Maharashtra Union of Working Journalists and the Nagpur Union of Working Journalists wherein the said circular dated April 18 was challenged.
The circular states that door-to-door distribution of newspapers by vendors cannot be permitted at this stage in view of the rapid spread of coronavirus in the state. Although the circular also states that newspapers can still be sold at stalls.
Petitioner's advocate Deven Chauhan called the said circular "arbitrary, unreasonable and in violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India" and sought directions from the high court to quash and set aside the circular.
The Union government had issued an advisory to all state governments and Union Territories to ensure smooth functioning of print and electronic media including printing and distribution of newspapers, Chauhan said.
Government Pleader S Deopujari submitted that the said petition was not maintainable as imposition of reasonable restrictions is needed at this hour and the circular is one such restriction. He also submitted that readers can always read e-paper which is available in a digital format.
After hearing submissions from both parties, Court issued notice to the Chief Secretary of the State of Maharashtra, Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry and state DGIPR (Directorate General of Information and Public Relations) directing them to file affidavits within two days and kept April 23 as the next date of hearing in the matter.