India’s Top Court Rules Against COVID Lockdown in Five Cities in Uttar Pradesh State

India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, has recorded more than 879,000 COVID infections amid the ongoing pandemic, with more than 223,000 cases reported in April alone. Nearly half of the new infections this month have been reported from four cities which India’s top court says must not be locked down.

India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed a lower court order which directed the government of the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, to impose a lockdown in five cities — Prayagraj, Gorakhpur, Varanasi, Lucknow and Kanpur.

India’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, argued in front of a bench that the ruling to impose a lockdown in five Indian cities by a judiciary order wasn’t the “right approach”. He was submitting his arguments before a top court bench headed by India’s Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde.

Putting a stay on the lockdown order, the court said that it was affording a two-week deadline to the state authorities to submit a status report on the steps it has taken to stem the rising number of infections.

The order was passed by the Allahabad High Court, the top state court, on Monday, as it ruled on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

“It is necessary to take some harsh steps in the larger public interest,” observed the Allahabad High Court, as it blasted the government for not being prepared to tackle the surge in cases despite the warning signs.

“No concrete plan has yet been chalked out in light of our observations, made in our last order, though some efforts of course, have been made to engage some private hospitals to convert them to Covid hospitals, but even there facilities available are not up to the mark,” the Bench said.

The Uttar Pradesh government refused to accept the state court’s order and decided to approach the nation’s Supreme Court.

The five cities, which include Varanasi, the federal parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have been witnessing a surge in cases in the second COVID wave. All this is amid several media reports alleging that the state authorities have been under-reporting the number of cases and fatalities in official records.

However, videos and testimonies on social media paint a grim picture of the current healthcare situation in the Indian state.

Several videos of dead bodies piling up at crematoriums and overflowing hospitals with patients on the floors have appeared online in recent days.

According to a media report citing lab assistants from a private testing chain, the state authorities have ordered them to collect samples amid complaints by state residents of “testing delays” contributing to a spike in infections.

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