The Karnataka High Court on Friday said the State Government will have to act immediately and help the community of farmers, during the lockdown period of 21-days, announced to avoid the spread of coronavirus. The State Government has also been directed to immediately locate people who attended the religious congregation at Nizamuddin and have entered the state and to quarantine them.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna heard a bunch of petitions through video conferencing, including an application filed by People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), seeking various reliefs regarding rural distress. The application claimed that due to the inability of the farmers to sell their produce, they are forced to dump the produce.
To which bench said "We expect the State Government to act immediately and help the community of farmers. So that the smooth functioning of farming operations and smooth transport and sale of agricultural/horticultural produce will not only help the farmers, but it will also help the state in ensuring continuous supply of agricultural/horticultural produce to the citizens.
As per Ministry of Home Affairs order dated March 27, certain exceptions were added to the order dated March 24, (Lockdown order) permitting farming operations in the field. The offices of Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees including MST operations are permitted to be kept open. Even Mandis (markets) operated by the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee have been permitted to be kept open. Manufacturing and packaging units of fertilizers, pesticides and seeds are permitted to be kept open. Intra and inter-state movement of vehicles for transport sowing related machines like combined harvesters and other horticultural/agricultural implements has been permitted.
However, PUCL claimed that though the State Government has advised the police to allow the vehicles carrying agricultural/horticultural produce to pass through, the said advice is not being implemented. The court said "The State Government must take all possible steps to give effect to the amendment dated March 27, carried out to the Government Order dated March 24, by ensuring that the farmers are allowed to perform farming operations by allowing the passage of farmers and their labourers to the respective fields, and by permitting the transport of agricultural/horticultural produce for its sale, or by arranging for the purchase of the agricultural/horticultural produce from the doorsteps of the farmers."
Two applications were moved before the court, by Girish Bharadwaj and Geetha Misra, in respect of persons who attended the religious congregation at Nizamuddin in Delhi and who have entered the State of Karnataka. The court said "The State Government will make all endeavour to get the data from the concerned authorities of the Central Government and Delhi Government and will take immediate steps to locate those persons in the State of Karnataka, to quarantine them and to take all further steps."
The bench has also directed the State Government to file its response in writing, setting out the measures taken for the implementation of clause (9) of the order dated March 24, regarding complete ban on all the religious congregations, during the lockdown period.
Further, the court directed the secretaries of the District Legal Services Authorities to ensure that they or their volunteers visit few camps in different parts of the respective districts on random basis and ascertain the condition of the said camps with reference to infrastructure and facilities provided to the migrant workers.
The direction followed after the state government gave district-wise details of the active relief camps and shelters, number of persons housed in relief camps and shelters, number of food camps and number of persons who are being provided with food. Details about the number of workers to whom shelter and food is provided by employers/industries where they are working.
PUCL in its application claimed that 10718 migrant workers have not received ration. To which the state said "To enable the State to deal with the complaints made by the said migrant workers, PUCL shall submit a comprehensive list of said 10718 migrant workers to the State along with necessary particulars to enable the State to make necessary verification and take action."
The court also allowed a petition filed by one Syed Suhail Ali Shuttari, which raised the grievance that during the period of lockdown, police are not allowing citizens to use two wheelers or four wheelers for approaching the doctors or to enable the citizens to purchase grocery, milk, medicines, etc.
The state clarified that the direction is issued by the police for proper implementation of the lockdown. It added that "If a citizen is using his two wheeler or four wheeler for seeking medical help or for purchasing the grocery, medicines and other essential items, if he discloses to the police that he is using two wheeler or four wheeler for that specific object, the police are not prohibiting for that limited purpose."
The court also allowed an application filed by PUCL raising an issue regarding the condition and plight of pet animals during the present lockdown. It was pointed out that the animals stranded in the pet shops were likely to suffer and die without any food, water, etc. and therefore, a direction be issued to the State Animal Welfare Board to evacuate the animals with the help of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which is headed by District Magistrates.
The bench directed the District Magistrates and the District Administration to coordinate with the State Animal Welfare Board and take immediate action of opening of all the pet shops across the state with a view to ascertain the condition of the animals locked in the pet shops. So long as the state government does not permit the pet shops to be kept open, the District Magistrates and the Animal Welfare Board shall ensure that due care of such evacuated animals is taken by providing food, water, medicines, etc. Bench also suggested to the state government to consider keeping open the pet shops so that food and medicines are made available to the pets.
As regards stray animals the court said authority should consider granting appropriate passes to the representatives of NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) who are dealing with animal welfare to enable them to feed stray animals throughout the State.
The bench has also directed the Central Government to consider the issue raised by PUCL in regards to stray animals and pets and whether there needs any modification to the order of March 24, of lockdown.
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