Published On : Fri, May 8th, 2020

HC seeks Maha stand on civic chief”s power to alter govt order

Nagpur: The Bombay High Court on Friday directed the Maharashtra government to file an affidavit clarifying its stand on the authority of a municipal commissioner to issue an order imposing revised lockdown in Nagpur city on par with Mumbai, Pune and Malegaon.

Justice R B Deo of the Nagpur bench of the high court was hearing a petition filed by a group of lawyers challenging the May 3 notification issued by the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC), imposing a revised lockdown in the city on par with the Mumbai, Pune and Malegaon regions, till May 17.

The plea, filed by four lawyers Prakash Jaiswal, Kamal Satuja, Manoj Sable and Shreerang Bhandarkar, has challenged the notification and termed it as illegal, arbitrary and unreasonable.

The petitioners” advocate Shyam Dewani on Friday told the court that the municipal commissioner has no power or jurisdiction to take such a decision under the Disaster Management Act.

Nagpur civic body lawyer S M Puranik told the court that on May 5, the civic chief had issued another notification prescribing certain guidelines that are consistent with the ones issued by the state and union government.

After hearing the brief arguments, the court noted that the petition deals with the interplay between the provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act and the Disaster Management Act and the same has wide ramifications.

“In view of the matter, it would be appropriate to direct the state government to file an affidavit. The government would be expected to clarify its stand on the authority of the Municipal Commissioner to issue the impugned directions,” the court said in its order.

The bench has directed the affidavit to be filed on May 15 when the petition would be heard.

As per the plea, the Union government on May 2 issued guidelines, under which each area or district across the country was divided into three zones – red, orange and green depending on the severity of COVID-19 in that particular area.

The guidelines prescribed activities and relaxations on the lockdown in each zone.

The Maharashtra government also issued guidelines to allow opening of standalone shops, liquor outlets, private offices with 33 per cent and other relaxations in COVID-19 non-containment zones.

It extended the easing of restrictions for shops in the red zones as well.

The petition said that even though Nagpur was in red zone, the guidelines permitted liquor shops, standalone shops and private offices with 33 per cent staff strength to start functioning.

“However, on the same day, the Nagpur civic body through its commissioner altered the guidelines issued by the Union government on the ground that considering the number of COVID-19 positive cases in Nagpur, it was necessary to implement even more strict measures during the lockdown period till May 17,” the petition said.

The revised lockdown puts Nagpur on par with the lockdown imposed in the Mumbai and Pune metropolitan regions, and Malegaon (in Nashik district), the plea said.

“The notification issued by the Nagpur civic body is abuse of power and (it was) passed without any authority under law, and is illegal, arbitrary, unreasonable and perverse, which deserves to be quashed and set aside,” the petition said.