Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, March 28
The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Saturday issued notice to the UT Administration and other respondents over a Public Interest Litigation that questions the administration’s decision to keep shops selling daily necessities open in the city.
A Bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and RK Jain heard the case through video conference and posted it for hearing on Sunday.
The Public Interest Litigation, filed by a city resident, Adityajit Singh, said that the administration’s decision to keep shops open would render “redundant” the purpose of social distancing and imposing curfew during the coronavirus pandemic and also sought a stay on the said order.
On Friday, the city administration decided that all shops selling essential commodities like foodgrain, groceries, fruits, vegetables, milk, meat and fish would open from 10 am to 6 pm daily and one person from every house can buy essential items by coming only on foot while maintaining adequate social distance.
Chandigarh’s coronavirus case stands at eight as of Saturday. India’s cases meanwhile continues to spiral to 843, with 19 deaths reported so far. The growing number of cases has prompted governments to order lockdown and curfews across the country.
Administration defends decision
The UT Administration defended its decision saying the decision was taken after receiving complaints of non-availability of basic necessities such as groceries and medicines.
Addressing the media here, Punjab Governor and UT Chandigarh Administrator VP Singh Badnore said after imposition of the curfew, the administration had put in massive efforts to ensure that the back-end supply chain and forward linkages of essential items including milk, vegetables, LPG gas, etc. were maintained. Though the entire administrative machinery was mobilised, the success achieved was limited, an official statement quoting Badnore said.
“A large number of complaints were received about non-availability of essential items, their quality, high prices, short duration of stay of mobile vendors, etc. There were also complaints from periphery areas and villages about people going without food due to absence of rations and medicines. Moreover, only few medical shops agreed to deliver medicines at doorsteps and that too of limited medicines,” he said.
Earlier, the administration had announced the supply of essential items at people’s doorsteps so that they would not need to step out of their homes.
After consultations between senior officials including medical experts, it was decided that it would be easier to ensure and regulate social distancing in three or four shops that will be opened in respective sector market areas which are more spread out,” the statement said.
Chandigarh DGP Sanjay Beniwal said nowhere in the country any curfew could be sustained for more than three days without giving relaxations.
“If such relaxations are not given, then it might result in law and order issues,” said an official statement quoting the DGP.
The administrator said he initially considered giving relaxation for limited period, but it was felt that such a process would lead to panic hoarding by consumers and the objective of social distancing would be defeated.
Further, the decision regarding opening or closing of stores selling essential items will be taken in due course depending upon crowd behaviour and compliance of social distancing by residents, the statement said.
Chandigarh has reported eight positive coronavirus cases so far. With PTI
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