Can local authorities lay guidelines contrary to directives of the govt: HC asks state govt

Observing that the marginal section of the society is worst hit by the lockdown from last eight weeks, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court on Tuesday ordered Maharashtra government to specify if local authorities can shut essential services or lay down timings for the functioning of shops.

A bench of Justice Vijay Achliya has ordered the authorities to file their affidavit in response to a petition filed by one Muzaffaruddin Khan, who challenged the decisions of the local authorities to shut down essential services in Aurangabad city.

By this order, communicated via Twitter, the authorities had prohibited the opening and operation of establishments and shops including that of groceries, milk-shops, vegetable and fruit vendors in the city.

In his plea, Khan contended that on May 3, the chief secretary had issued the guidelines allowing shops selling essential goods in the market and complexes in urban as well as rural areas, to remain operational without any restriction in between 7am in the morning till 7 pm.

"In spite of the directives and guidelines in force, the sale of essential goods and services are regulated by adopting odd / even days formula, that too between 7 am and 1 pm," Khan pointed out.

"However, all of a sudden, the Divisional Commissioner orally directed that all the establishments and shops including the shops selling groceries, milk shops, vegetable and fruit vendors shall remain closed till May 20. Except the medical shops, all other shops including the shops selling essential commodities were ordered to shut for more than fve days. The same might get extended," the plea claimed.

Accordingly, Khan argued that local administration cannot override the guidelines issued by the Chief Secretary of state.

"The entire exercise on the part of these local authorities to close down the shops including the shops selling essential commodities is per-se illegal, arbitrary and colourable exercise of powers. They cannot transgress their authority in law," the plea argued.

"Because of this arbitrary action, the people at large are deprived of the essential commodities. They have sufered a lot. Such arbitrary action amounts to infringing the fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens," Khan argued further.

Having heard the contentions, Justice Achliya ordered the local authorities to file an affidavit dealing with all the contentions raised by Khan.

"The afdavit shall be filed specifying the steps taken to address the concerns expressed in the petition. The afdavit be filed to address the issues relating to persons belonging to marginal section of the society as they are most affected persons and facing difficulties on account of lockdown, which is in operation from last more than eight weeks," Justice Achliya observed.

The bench will next hear the matter on Friday.

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Free Press Journal