A public interest litigation petition in the Madras High Court claimed that lockdown was not a solution to control the spread of COVID-19 and that the number of cases, as well as fatalities due to the disease, had gone up considerably, despite successive lockdowns imposed in various parts of the State since March 25.
When the case was listed for admission before Justices R. Subbiah and Krishnan Ramasamy on Monday, the petitioner’s counsel contended that the term “lockdown” did not find place either in the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 or the Disaster Management Act of 2005 or any other law of the land, and hence it was impermissible.
He also argued that a lockdown violated the fundamental right to freedom of movement and forced poor labourers into penury.
Lockdowns can only help the government prepare infrastructure required to deal with the situation, whereas the spread of the disease can be controlled through effective containment of the infected, he said.
On the other hand, State government pleader V. Jayaprakash Narayanan said that petitions had been dismissed by other Division Benches of the court and hence this case should also be dismissed. After hearing both of them, the judges said that they would pass detailed orders in the case on Wednesday after going through the papers.
M. Immanuvel, a book stall owner from Kovilampakkam, had filed the case, stating that the Epidemic Diseases Act empowered the Centre as well as the State government to enforce regulations necessary for arresting the spread of a disease. The law did not use the term lockdown. Yet, the governments had chosen to curtail the freedom of movement of all people, he said.
After the infection graph showed an upward trend despite successive lockdowns, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 12, in a televised address to the nation, had stated that the epidemic might prolong for some more time, as per expert opinion, and hence people must take precautions such as wearing masks and maintaining physical distancing, the petitioner said.
Stating that normal life must be allowed to go on with precautions and the infected must be kept under strict quarantine, the petitioner said that the State government was wrong in implementing lockdowns.