New Delhi, July 20: Coming down hard on the Kerala government for relaxing Covid restrictions for Bakrid, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the government's affidavit has disclosed a "sorry state of affairs", and pointed out relaxation for even one day in an area having critical spread of infection was "wholly uncalled for".

A bench of Justices R.F. Nariman and B.R. Gavai said: "We may only indicate that this affidavit discloses a sorry state of affairs as has been stated herein above, and does not in any real manner safeguard the Right to Life and Health guaranteed to all the citizens of India under Article 21 of the Constitution of India." The bench added it may also be pointed out that the "relaxation for one day to a category D (area having critical spread of infection) area was wholly uncalled for". Eid-ul-Zuha 2021 Greetings: Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu Greets Nation on Bakra Eid.

Citing the Kerala government's July 17 notification relaxing Covid curbs for Bakrid, the bench said: "We may also indicate that if as a result of the notification dated July 17, 2021, any untoward spread in the Covid-19 disease takes place, any member of the public may bring this to the notice of this court, after which this court will take necessary action against those who are responsible."

The bench added pressure groups of all kinds, religious or otherwise, cannot in any manner, interfere with this most precious fundamental right of all the citizens of India. Defending its decision to relax lockdown norms for 'Bakrid' festivities, the Kerala government told the court that the curbs had resulted in an economic slowdown, pushing the population in a lot of misery, and also caused immense distress among traders amid the holy festival of Muslims.

The government said the traders were expecting that festival sales would alleviate their miseries to a certain extent and they had stocked up goods for this purpose much earlier. "The organisation of traders started to agitate against the stringent curbs implemented... and declared that they will open shops all over the state flouting regulations," it said.

At this, the bench said: "To give in to pressure groups so that the citizenry of India is laid bare to a nationwide pandemic discloses a sorry state of affairs." Citing Kerala's response, the bench added that the state also blithely records that the opening of shops will strictly follow Covid protocols and they are ready to follow additional regulations ordered by the state, if any.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for a petitioner, citing high test positivity rate, close to 11 per cent, in Kerala in addition with large number of cases being recorded every day, and emphasised the court should pass some order in the matter, as Tuesday is the last day of Covid curbs relaxation. However, the top court did not pass any order quashing the notification issued by the Kerala government.

The application against the Kerala government's decision to relax Covid curbs was moved by P.K.D. Nambiar, a Delhi resident, in the suo motu case already initiated by the Supreme Court in connection with Uttar Pradesh government's decision on Kanwar Yatra. The application submitted that despite discontentment shown by the top court over the yatra, the Kerala government is acting in a casual manner by relaxing Covid norms.

"To the utter dismay of India's citizens, the Kerala government announced a 3-day relaxation of lockdown restrictions on July 18, 19 and 20 keeping in view the upcoming Bakrid festival," said the plea.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jul 20, 2021 07:05 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website