16 May 2021 4:54 AM GMT
While issuing several directions to the State Administration to curb further spread of COVID-19 in the State of Manipur State, the Manipur High Court this week observed, "It is therefore not only for the State administration to be mindful and conscious of what is required of it at this time and to rise to the occasion but also for each and every citizen to do all that is within his ken...
While issuing several directions to the State Administration to curb further spread of COVID-19 in the State of Manipur State, the Manipur High Court this week observed,
"It is therefore not only for the State administration to be mindful and conscious of what is required of it at this time and to rise to the occasion but also for each and every citizen to do all that is within his ken to arrest the spread of this virus."
The Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Kumar and Justice Kh. Nobin Singh also directed the state government to ensure that essential shops are adequately stocked with necessary products and goods, including vegetables, so as to meet peoples' needs.
The matter before the Court
A Public Interest Litigation petition was filed by a practicing Advocate, assailing 3 orders of the Government of Manipur. In the first order, the Government declared the whole of Greater Imphal as a containment zone, from May 7 to May 16, 2021.
In its second order, the Government imposed curfew in the districts of Imphal West, Imphal East, Bishnupur, Thoubal, Kakching, Churachandpur and Ukhrul from May 8 to May 17, 2021.
By the last order, noting that complete closure of certain critical services had led to difficulty in the provision of Government services or undue hardship to the public, the Government of Manipur had considered it appropriate to permit certain activities/services
Certain directions were also sought to the authorities in relation to the situation prevailing in affected areas, consequent to the orders impugned.
At the outset, the Court noted that the measures put in place by way of the 3 orders didn't yield the coveted result as Covid-19 cases and related fatalities continued to rise at an alarming rate.
The Court also observed that there could be no doubting the fact that people in curfew-bound areas and elsewhere in the State of Manipur are currently facing a number of difficulties.
"The very fact that the Government of Manipur came out with certain relaxations in its last order dated 11.05.2021 indicates that the public were being put to undue hardship. The order itself says as much," added the Court.
Importantly, the Court also opined,
"Such aspects ought to have been taken into consideration by the Government at the time of imposition of the restrictions but wisdom in that regard seems to have dawned only at a later stage, leading to the last order of relaxations."
Orders of the Government
In the first order, the Government restricted the use of Post Offices' facilities by the general public, including the dispatch of money orders.
To this, the Court remarked that during these cash-strapped times, those in the State of Manipur or elsewhere who wish to come to the financial aid of their friends or relations in other parts of the country, including the State of Manipur, may wish to send them money orders.
"Barring them from doing so, even though Post Offices are allowed to remain open, cannot be countenanced," added the Court.
Thus, the Court directed the Government of Manipur to allow such transactions through Post Offices, while scrupulously adhering to Covid-19 protocols, including social distancing and wearing of masks, under strict monitoring by the staff of the Post Offices concerned.
Further, the Government of Manipur has been asked to ensure that all the Banks concerned stock sufficient cash in their ATMs installed at different locations, so that people are not constrained to move from one ATM to another in search of cash.
Also, noting that People proceeding to a medical shop to buy drugs/medicines may not have a prescription from a doctor and those who take drugs/medicines for long-term medical conditions, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, etc., may not be in a position to produce a doctor's prescription of recent origin, the Court directed,
"The Government must therefore sensitize its ground-staff, including the police, and ensure that such people are not subjected to harassment when they go out to access pharmacies in their localities. Further, it is a contradiction in terms for the Government to say that pharmacies are being kept open throughout the day and to view with suspicion every person who says that he is going to a pharmacy…The Government and the police cannot subject genuine pharmacy-goers to harassment, merely on the ground that they have no doctor's prescription or a doctor's prescription of recent origin."
Importantly, the Court also directed the Government to ensure that all the pharmacies in the affected areas are adequately stocked with every kind of drug/medicine, including OTC drugs, so that needy customers are not driven from one pharmacy to another in search of their desired drug/medicine.
Lastly, the Court said that at a time like this, when the entire nation is being ravaged by the second onslaught of this deadly pandemic, it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to be mindful of the care and caution that has to be exercised to arrest the spread of the virus, i.e., by staying home, shunning avoidable human contact, and restricting physical human interactions to the bare minimum.
The matter has now been posted for further hearing on June 2.
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