Mask Best Defence, Jack Up Fine For Not Wearing One: Guj HC
The Gujarat High Court has directed the state government to increase the fine for not wearing a mask in public places to a minimum of Rs 1,000.
In its order in a public interest litigation (PIL) about the state government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J B Pardiwala observed that "masks are logically the best defense individuals have against the COVID-19".
The order in the suo motu (taken up by the court on its own) PIL was passed on July 24 and became available on Tuesday.
The Gujarat government recently increased the fine for not wearing a mask to Rs 500 from Rs 200 which reduced the number of people who violated the rule significantly, it told the court.
But the court said some people still do not adhere to the rule.
"The fine of Rs 200 to Rs 500 appears to be not pinching the pocket of the violators, as such the state government / Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation or other municipal corporations / municipalities must consider fixing the fine between Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 with such enhancement on repetitions of the violation," it said.
"The state government shall issue appropriate notification enhancing the fine to a minimum of Rs 1,000 for not wearing masks...This levy of fine shall be uniform across the state of Gujarat," the court added.
The government should not shy away from taking "certain harsh steps" and measures as "only the deterrent effect" may help the government get cooperation from the public in such matters, it said.
"The government must do everything to fulfill this duty to protect the health and well-being of the people.
"In doing so, the government may have to take certain harsh steps and measures such as banning public and religious gatherings, hiking up the fines for disobeying mask laws, punishing those severely who try to profit off peoples illnesses," the judges said.
The court also directed the government to stop the movement of people from Surat to Ahmedabad until the COVID-19 situation in Surat improves.
It said that rickshaw drivers should also be fined if the passenger is not wearing a mask and a similar rule should apply to shopkeepers too, it said.
The court also directed the government to provide district-wise daily data of the tests performed, number of samples tested positive, number of persons discharged, number of patients who are home-quarantined, total deaths and total deaths where deceased tested COVID-19 positive to all the newspapers so as to make people aware of the spread of the virus and ensure that there is no complacency.
Ruing the low number of tests, the court asked the government to divide each taluka/city into zones and set a target for conducting a specified number of random tests over a period of one week in the entire state.
The court also directed the government to make life- saving drugs like Remdesivir and Tocilizumab available in sufficient quantities and at controlled prices.
Noting that 11 districts have no testing laboratories, the HC asked the government to explain why a direction should not be issued to set up laboratories in each of these districts at the earliest.
The judges warned the people not to live in "the bubble of herd immunity," pointing out that as per a study conducted by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, out of 3,00,543 samples, only 17.6 per cent had antibodies for coronavirus.
Image Credits: PTI