The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court has questioned the Maharashtra government’s decision to ban door-to-door distribution of newspapers while allowing people to step out and buy them from street stalls. Justice P B Varale on Monday took suo moto (on his own) cognizance of the issue, seeking the government’s reply by April 27.

Earlier on Monday, the Nagpur bench of the high court too had asked the government to file its reply on the issue in response to petitions filed by journalist associations.

The government has prohibited door-to-door delivery of newspapers in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This court is aware of the unforeseen situation being faced by the world in general, i.e. the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in general and India in particular,” Justice Varale said.

“It is also not in dispute that the Central Government and the State Government are taking various steps/measures to deal with the situation,” he said.

The court, however, noted that while print media was exempted from the lockdown, the Chief Minister has prohibited door-to-door delivery of newspapers.

“One also fails to understand the logic behind the situation, wherein the newspapers are permitted to be printed and published but they are not permitted to be distributed door-to-door,” the court said in the order.

“One also fails to understand, when the state government is permitting purchase of newspapers at the stalls, as to why the door-to-door delivery is prohibited,” it said.

By allowing people to go to stalls and shops to buy newspapers, the government was giving them a reason or excuse to step out of houses during the lockdown, the court noted.

Door-to-door distribution would ensure that people do not come out on the streets to purchase newspapers, it said.

Though digital copies were available online, it was not possible for the majority of the people to access them as they may not be familiar with the technology or they are “used to reading hard copy of a newspaper”, the high court added.

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