The Allahabad High Court on Wednesday (29th July) disposed of a PIL seeking relaxations in the state government guidelines dated July 12, which contemplate for a two days lockdown (on every Saturday and Sunday) in view of COVID-19 pandemic, as according to the petitioner, the festival of Bakrid or Eid-Al-Adha is falling on Saturday, August 1.
The Petitioner, Dr Mohammad Ayub had moved the High Court claiming that the lockdown which is applicable on every Saturday and Sunday infringes with the right guaranteed under Articles 21 and 25 of the Constitution of India.
However, the bench of Justice Pankaj Mitthal and Justice Yogendra Kumar Srivastava refused to entertain the petition while stating,
"We, in such a situation, where the restrictions imposed have neither been shown to be arbitrary or unreasonable, find no reason whatsoever for relaxing the conditions contained under the guidelines."
The Case of the Petitioner
The Petitioner had submitted that Qurbani (sacrifice) is mandatory on the festival of Eid-ul-Adha which is falling on 31.07.2020. He further submitted that the festival is actually on Saturday, 1st of August, 2020.
The petitioner, therefore, prayed that for the purposes of Qurbani on the said day of the festival, relaxations may be provided in the guidelines of the State Government dated 12.07.2020 which contemplate for a two days' lockdown in view of COVID-19 pandemic on every Saturday and Sunday.
The observation of the Court
The court acknowledged the fact that the Fundamental Rights as contained under Part III of the Constitution have always enjoyed a special and privileged place in the Constitution and occupy a unique place in the lives of the civilised societies. They have been held to be transcendental, inalienable and primordial.
However, as the court observed, "the Fundamental Rights under Part III are not of an absolute nature and the same are subject to reasonable restrictions."
Regarding Article 25, which secures to every person the freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion, the court observed that "the entitlement to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion is, however, subject to public order, morality and health and to other provisions of Part III.".
The court highlighted the fact that the power to impose reasonable restrictions may be necessary in the interest of public order, morality and health provided the restrictions so imposed are not unreasonable and arbitrary.
Significantly, the bench observed,
"The right under Article 25 guaranteeing freedom of conscience, profession, practice and propagation of religion being subject to 'public order, morality and health', and also 'to other provisions' of Part III of the Constitution, the restrictions imposed by the State Government imposing lockdown for two days a week during the extraordinary situation created due to COVID-19 pandemic, cannot be said to impinge upon any of the Fundamental Rights of the petitioners or members of any religious community."
Further the court noted,
"The counsel for the petitioner is unable to establish before us as to in what manner the restrictions imposed in terms of the guidelines issued by the State Government in the light of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic impinge upon any of the fundamental rights of the petitioner or of any person especially in these unprecedented times of COVID-19 pandemic which casts an onerous obligation upon the State to take measures to secure the health and lives of its citizens."
Lastly, the court did not find any element of public interest in the present petition so as to exercise its extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. The writ petition thus failed and was, accordingly, dismissed.
It may be noted that in the month of May, the Allahabad High Court had disposed of a PIL seeking permission to open mosques for offering Eid prayers with the direction that the Petitioner should first approach the concerned state authorities.
Case Title: Dr. Mohammad Ayub v. State of U.P. and 3 others
Case No.: Public Interest Litigation (PIL) No. - 749 of 2020
Quorum: Justice Pankaj Mitthal and Justice Yogendra Kumar Srivastava
Appearance: Advocates Arvind Kumar and Rahul Chaudhary (for Petitioner); C.S.C (for Respondents)