In a significant order, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court on Tuesday ordered the civic authorities to consider disseminating the numbers of essential shops to citizens, so that they could place orders on WhatsApp. The HC said, this could be done instead of ordering a complete lockdown, at least in red zone areas.
A bench of Justices Prasanna Varale and Shrikant Kulkarni was hearing a petition filed by a resident of Aurangabad city challenging the 'complete lockdown / shutdown' orders issued by local authorities.
According to the petitioner, the authorities had ordered a complete shutdown of all shops including essential services except medicals and clinics. He argued that such a shutdown was arbitrary in view of the relaxations given by the state chief secretary.
In its defense, the local administration of Aurangabad city said a complete and stringent shutdown was the only solution to break the chain of continuous transmission of the deadly virus. It further stated that it had allowed the essential shops to operate till 2 pm daily, however, that too did not prove to be helpful in bringing down the rising numbers.
Having considered the submissions, the bench noted that the matter was infructuous as the essential shops have been allowed to operate now.
"But we may put certain suggestions to the authorities as it is now common knowledge that we are faced with the unprecedented situation of COVID-19 pandemic. The authorities are also taking steps in view of the various notifications issued by the Union and state governments," the bench noted.
"We may suggest the corporation to explore the possibility of publishing the WhatsApp numbers of the shopkeepers in the notified / particular areas. This may facilitate the consumers in advance to place the orders for groceries or other articles of daily needs. This may facilitate the shopkeepers to keep these orders ready, received well in advance, for delivery on the next date," the judges recommended.
The bench further said that this mechanism would save time of both the consumers as well as the shopkeepers.
"We are aware of our limitations and the fact that we are not expected to take charge of the administration nor is expected to indulge in monitoring trade activities but for the peculiar circumstances, we are prompted to provide these suggestions," the judges justified.