The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Sunday upheld the decision taken by the administration of Chandigarh Union Territory on March 27 to allow the opening of shops selling essential items from 10 am to 6 pm amid COVID-19 pandemic.
After a special sitting held on Sunday via video-conferencing, a bench comprising Justices Rajiv Sharma and Rakesh Kumar Jain observed.
"The order dated 27.03.2020 is valid. It has been issued in larger public interest. The scope of judicial interference in a policy matter is very limited. The Chandigarh Administration has weighed all the pros and cons before taking the decision. We will not substitute our wisdom for the wisdom of the Administration during this crisis. Maintaining social distance is a sine qua non to control the disease. The Administration may also solicit opinion of the specialists of infectious/communicable diseases, while taking a decision."
The bench added :
"...the petition is disposed of with an observation that the Administration may lay down the parameters of social distancing at the time of distribution of essential items and also to monitor and regulate the same by taking stringent actions against the violators", the bench observed.
The petition was filed by Advocate Adityajit Singh Chadha contending that the decision taken by the administration on March 27 defeated the purpose of lockdown.
On Saturday, the bench had directed the authorities to submit their response by 9.30 AM on Sunday.
The administration submitted that the order issued on March 27 was as per the guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on March 24. Only limited exemption was given to one person from each household to walk to the nearest shops selling essential items. The administration also said that it was encouraging home delivery system.
The bench expressed satisfaction about the impugned decision, and also the measures adopted by the administration to follow lockdown guidelines.
"It is, thus, evident that the order dated 27.03.2020 has been issued as per the guidelines issued by the Union of India and after holding consultations with the Director, PGIMER, Chandigarh; the Director, Health Services, Chandigarh and DGP. The whole exercise has been undertaken to maintain regular supply of essential items to the public at large", the bench observed.
The administration also submitted that it was encouraging e-vending, and will strictly enforce social distancing guidelines.
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