Observing that "the State government was playing with the lives of people by being so casual," the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday, once again asked the government on how it would enforce the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) issued by the Union government, while allowing opening of Malls, places of religion and hotels/restaurants, from June 8.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Nataraj Rangaswamy said "State is relying on the advisories issued by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Commissioner and Director General and Inspector General of Police, allowing reopening of malls, places of worship and hotels/restaurants. However, it is unable to satisfy us that they can issue enforceable directions under the State Disaster Management Act."
The court while posting the matter for further hearing on June 19, directed the Central government to clarify whether the SOP issued on June 4 for phased reopening of lockdown can be read as directions issued under the Disaster Management Act.
It observed "The state must set its house in order, considering the urgency in the matter."
During the hearing the counsel for the state government tried to argue that the directions of the BBMP Commissioner, DGP IGP are under section 24 of the State Disaster Management Act.
However, the court said :
"We must note that penal provisions of section 51 (punishment for obstruction) are attracted, for which there is a requirement to comply with the directions given by or on behalf of the Central Government, State Government or the National executive Committee or State Executive Committee. Perusal of the advisories issued by the Commissioner of BBMP do not indicate that the same has been issued on behalf of the state government."
The bench made these observations while hearing a petition filed by Letzkit Foundation. Advocate Puttige R Ramesh appearing for the petitioner had argued that since June 8, when the places are thrown open there is violation of social distancing norms and people are moving around without wearing face masks.
On a query of the court about the grievance redressal mechanism available to citizens to lodge complaints about violation if any of norms like social distancing. It was told that citizens can complain to the police control room by dialling the number 100. To which the bench asked how would citizens know about this mechanism. The state will have to issue some directions in this regard or either create awareness.
It said "This is very serious, temples are thrown opens, malls are thrown open and there is no machinery in place to check these places."