SC seeks explanation from Kerala on 3-day relaxations for Eid

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The Supreme Court on Monday sought an immediate explanation from the Kerala government on the three-day relaxation in the state to facilitate shopping in the run-up to Eid amid fears of a third Covid-19 wave.

The direction came days after the top court asked the Uttar Pradesh government some tough questions as to why it was going ahead with the Kanwar Yatra during the lockdown. UP eventually dropped all such plans. This was formally conveyed to a bench led by Justice RF Nariman on Monday.

The bench then turned its attention to another petition which had accused Kerala of similarly placing citizens’ right to life and health in jeopardy by lifting lockdown restrictions for Eid. The relaxation began on Sunday.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh flagged this issue before the court on Monday. He argued that Kerala had the highest Covid-19 positivity rate among all states and also the highest number of cases. To draw a contrast between UP and Kerala, he claimed that UP and Delhi had corona positivity rates of 0.02% and 0.07% respectively. But Kerala’s positivity rate stood at 10.96%, he argued. In sheer numbers too, while UP had only 59 Covid-19 patients, Kerala had over 20,000 cases, he argued.

Justice Nariman responded by adding a prefix to the figures of UP and Delhi. “Allegedly”, he said. He eventually sought an immediate response on the nature of the relaxations from Kerala from state counsel VG Pragasam. That will be filed later on Monday. The court will take up the case on Tuesday.

In an additional affidavit filed by Uttar Pradesh, the state said that all Kanwar Yatras Sanghas in the state had agreed to voluntarily drop their plans to conduct the yatra which involves taking Ganges water to Haridwar for holy consecration.

Taking note of the UP government’s submission, the SC closed the matter related to Kanwar Yatra in Uttar Pradesh and asked the authorities to ensure that any untoward incident directly affecting the lives of the public shall be looked upon sternly and prompt action would be taken immediately.

The UP government, however, did not rule out local abhishek ceremonies being allowed wherein interested youth can pour Ganges water on Lord Shiva in their local temples by observing adequate social distancing norms and Covid protocols.

This will be with permission, the state had told the top court, through senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan. In contrast, Pragasam said that the Kerala relaxations were in the nature of letting shops stay open ahead of Eid.

The intervention application objecting to the Eid relaxations in Kerala has been filed by Delhi resident PKD Nambiar.

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