Plea seeking disciplinary action against ‘non-essential’ Govt Depts that opened Offices dismissed by Delhi HC

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Delhi High Court has dismissed a petition seeking disciplinary action against Government departments involved in non-essential goods and services which opened their offices and operations during coronavirus lockdown.

A division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar on May 1 dismissed the plea filed by advocate Anil K Aggarwal observing that any hyper-legalistic interpretation of the lockdown guidelines would be fundamentally misconceived.

“What is required, in these circumstances, is a purposive and realistic, rather than a legalistic, understanding of the guidelines, and, thus viewed, we do not find that the writ petition makes out any case of infraction therewith,” the Court said.

The petition had sought appropriate directions to the government to trace out all Ministries, Departments and Offices and Central PSEs/companies, involved in non-essential goods and services and opened their offices and operations during lockdown period and to initiate disciplinary action against the head of such Ministries and Departments and Chairman and other members of Board of Directors of all such companies.

The plea sought to lodge FIRs against the offending heads under the provision of the Disaster Management Act and under charges dealing with Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).It also sought directions to strictly enforce the COVID-19 related statutory orders and guidelines dated April 15 in the letter and spirit and prevent misuse of relaxations by any person or people.

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The Court said th at a reading of the lockdown guidelines make it apparent that the decision regarding the precise extent to which lockdown should be imposed is one with which interference at the hands of the judiciary must be reduced to a bare minimum.It said that neither India nor has the rest of the world, seen, in the recorded past, a global pandemic, of the magnitude assumed by COVID-19.

The Court said:”The measures, which the government authorities have assiduously put into place to tackle the crisis, could not be treated as either foreseeable or predictable, in any manner. The flip side of the coin is, unfortunately, imminent economic regression, and, in the national and public interest, the Government is also committed to ensuring that the economic edifice of the country does not fall to the ground.”

It added:

“A fine, and nice, balance is, therefore, to be struck, by the executive, in safeguarding the concerns of health and economy, without compromising on either, to any extent. The clamping down, on the citizenry, of lockdown, and the simultaneous relaxation, of the rigour of the lockdown, in respect of certain offices and enterprises, is an effort at maintaining such a delicate balance.”

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