Observing that the COVID-19 situation in Chennai and its suburbs was alarming, the Madras High Court on Thursday asked the state government why complete lockdown can't be implemented for some time in the city to contain the spread of the pandemic.
Despite the steps taken by the Tamil Nadu government to contain the spread of COVID-19, everyday the number of cases is "steeply rising and the situation has become alarming" particularly in the metropolis and its outskirts, a bench of justices Vineet Kothari and R Suresh Kumar said.
"Therefore, we want to know whether the government has devised any special scheme, which includes complete lockdown or curfew to contain the spread in Chennai and surrounding areas for sometime," the judges asked state government pleader V Jayaprakash Narayan during the virtual court proceedings after concluding listed cases.
The judges made it clear they raised the question about lockdown as citizens of the state and the city, in the interest of the public, and were not initiating any public interest litigation (PIL) proceedings ''suo motu'' (on its own).
With over 27,000 cases, the metropolis accounts for over 70% of the state's tally and the rising number of deaths (349) too, worried the court. Responding to the court's query, the pleader sought time till Friday for getting instructions from the government, if any.
However, he pointed to guidelines issued when the government extended the lockdown till June 30 in the state and announced various relaxations, including allowing public transport in other parts of the state.
"No further decision has been taken. I will get instructions from the special officer J Radhakrishnan, who has been appointed to coordinate COVID-19 work in Chennai, and other officials on the latest development by tomorrow," the pleader added.
In the latest lockdown relaxations, the state government has allowed functioning of shops, dine-in services in hotels and private sector offices with more workforce, but barred public transport buses and trains in the city and neighbouring three districts where the case load is high.
The government had recently appointed a group of ministers to monitor containment activities in the city. Adjoining districts of Chengalpet, Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur, where the city's suburbs fall, have also reported a large number of COVID-19 cases.