HC asks state to justify claim of Covid-19 spreading through newspapersUpdated: Apr 27, 2020 20:21 IST
The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court (HC) rapped the state for making sweeping statements that the Sars-Cov-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, could spread through newspaper distribution and hence should not be allowed. The court held that the state should substantiate its claim with evidence and the opinion of experts rather than making such statements. The court was hearing a suo moto public interest litigation (PIL) following news reports of door-to-door distribution of newspapers being barred by the government.
The single bench of justice Prasanna Varale, while hearing the petition on Monday, was informed by amicus curiae advocate Satyajeet Bora that following the April 20 news report which read “Maharashtra allows printing but bans distribution of newspapers”, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court had also taken cognizance of the issue and passed an order on April 20.
Referring to the April 18 order of the government, which restricted door-to-door delivery of newspapers and magazines as a precautionary measure to curb the spread of Covid-19, government pleader DR Kale informed the court that the order was amended on April 21 and door-to-door distribution was allowed across the state except in Mumbai, Pune, and other containment zones.
Kale justified the April 18 order through an affidavit, stating that experts had opined that the virus remained on surfaces for some time and hence, newspapers could be a medium for spreading.
In the absence of any data or proof to justify the statement in the affidavit, the court said, “It seems that this is only a general and sweeping statement made in the affidavit in reply. There is no reference to any comment of the experts in the field or any opinion formed by anybody working in the health area.”
The court, however, added that the state could consider restricting door-to-door delivery of newspapers in particular areas and asked the government to file an additional response to its queries along with a report by amicus curiae Bora. The case has been posted for hearing on June 11.