While hearing a writ petition filed by five lawyers from Nagpur seeking quashing of the revised lockdown order issued by the Nagpur Municipal Commissioner on May 3 calling it illegal, Bombay High Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Union of India, the State government and the Municipal Commissioner.
Justice Anil S Kilor of the Nagpur bench directed the Municipal Commissioner to file an affidavit-in-reply before the next date of hearing which is May 8. The petitioner advocates are Prakash Jaiswal, Kishore Lambat, Kamal Satuja, Manoj Sable and Shreerang Bhandarkar.
Advocate Shyam Dewani appeared on behalf of the petitioners, Government Pleader SY Deopujari appeared for the State, Collector & Divisional Commissioner, Nagpur, Sudhir Puranik for NMC & Additional Solicitor General UM Aurangabadkar appeared for Union of India.
The petition contends that the Commissioner's order is illegal, arbitrary, unreasonable and the same falls under usurpation of power and authority of the district collector and also against the intent and powers accorded under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. Moreover, the petitioners allege that the said order is against the Government of India notification dated May 1 and Government of Maharashtra notification dated May 2.
The Government of Maharashtra through its Principal Secretary issued a notification dated March 14 called 'Maharashtra COVID-19 Regulation. In the said COVID-19 Regulation, the 'Empowered Officer' is defined under the Section 2(1) of the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 -
"Empowered officer under section 2(1) of the Act, shall be Commissioner, Health Services, Director of Health Services (DHS-I & II), Director, Medical Education & Research (DMER), all Divisional Commissioners of Revenue Divisions & all Collectors and Municipal Commissioners & they are empowered to take such measures as are necessary to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19 or the spread thereof within their respective jurisdictions"
Referring to the Government of India's notification dated May 1 which divides all districts across the whole country into Red, Orange and Green zones as per the number of cases in the concerned district/city, the petitioners argued that NMC has issued order dated May 3 invoking Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, although Nagpur rural area comes under Orange Zone, except one containment area. Even in the said order dated May 3, the District Collector clearly specified that private offices in the area excluding the area within NMC can operate with upto 33% strength and shops selling liquor are also allowed to function with a condition to ensure minimum six feet distance from each other and not more than 5 persons are permitted to be present at one time at the shop.
The petition states that the Maharashtra government announced on May 3 that shops selling non-essential commodities including liquor will be allowed to open from May 4 in the COVID-19-non-containment zones across the state. However..
"The respondent no.6 -Municipal Commissioner in utter defiance of the said decision of the Government of Maharashtra issued a impugned notification dated 03.05.2020 restricting the opening of private offices, liquor shops etc which is clearly a discriminatory, arbitrary and illegal imposition of the dictatorial order and the same cannot stand to the scrutiny of law."
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