"In their endeavour to protect the life and health of its citizens / inhabitants, the executive is entitled to some elbow room and a free play in its joints", remarked the Uttarakhand High Court last week.
This was in context of the Division Bench's observation that "in these times of a global pandemic of the Covid-19 disease, stringent measures have been taken, and severe restrictions have been imposed, both by the Government of India and the State Government to prevent its further spread".
The Chief Justice-led bench was hearing a PIL where the jurisdiction of the Court was invoked by the petitioner complaining that, though Haridwar district did not see any increase in Covid-19 cases, it was nonetheless classified as red zone, while districts Dehradun, Udham Singh Nagar and Nainital, which saw a surge in Covid-19 cases, were classified as orange zone.
The bench had at an earlier date noted that in Lockdown 4.0, which commenced on 18th May, 2020, the Government of India has left the matter, of classifying districts or areas into different coloured zones or containment zones, to respective State Governments. Accordingly, it had required the production of a copy of the Notification, if any, issued by the State Government re- classifying zones in the State. "The State Government shall explain the rationale in districts/ areas within the State being classified under different categories", the Court had directed.
When the matter came up for hearing on Thursday, the bench was informed that the Government of Uttarakhand has re-classified zones within the State; and, as a result, only Almora, Dehradun, Nainital, Pauri Garhwal, Udham Singh Nagar and Uttarakashi districts are classified as orange zones, and all other districts in the State, including Haridwar, are now classified as green zones.
In these circumstances, though the petitioner stated that his grievance no longer survives since Haridwar is now classified as a green zone, he however contended that the validity of original classification may still require examination on the touchstone of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
The bench reflected that "it is not even the petitioner's case that such classification of zones had resulted in an increase in Covid-19 cases in different districts of the State". "His grievance is that, as there were no increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in Haridwar district, it ought to have been classified as a green zone, and was instead classified as a red zone. Factors, such as Haridwar being a pilgrimage centre where people may gather in large numbers if such restrictions were not imposed, may have also weighed with the authorities in classifying it as a red zone earlier", explained the Court.
Since the petitioner's grievance, regarding such classification, did not subsist as on date, the bench saw "no reason to dwell on this aspect any further". Dismissing the writ petition as infructuous, the bench however, clarified that it shall not disable the petitioner, if he is aggrieved by any unreasonable restriction imposed by the State Government later, to avail his judicial remedies.
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