Increase fine to Rs 1000 for violators, mask logically the best defense: Gujarat HC
By Vivek Raj | Galatta | Aug 05, 2020, 05:06 pm
The Gujarat High Court has directed the state government to increase the fine to a minimum of Rs 1,000 on those who violate the orders of not wearing a mask in public places. A division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J B Pardiwala noted in a public interest litigation (PIL) about the state government's handling of the COVID-19 outbreak that "masks are logically the best defense individuals have against the novel coronavirus".
The order in the suo motu PIL (taken up by the court on its own) was made available on Tuesday after getting passed in July. Although the Gujarat government increased the fine from Rs 200 to Rs 500 for not wearing a mask, which did reduce the number of violators being penalized to a significant extent, the court asserted that some people were still not adhering to the rule.
In its statement, the court said, "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 added, "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 further stated that the government must not back down from resorting to "certain harsh steps" and measures as "only the deterrent effect" may lead to the public cooperating with the state in such matters. The judges said, "The government must do everything to fulfill this duty to protect the health and well-being of the people." They also pointed out saying, "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 people's illnesses,".
In their directive, the court also informed the government to take steps to put a curb on people's movement from Surat to Ahmedabad until the COVID-19 crisis in Surat sees an improvement. It added that fines should be levied against auto rickshaw drivers in case the passenger is found not to be wearing a mask and a similar rule should be followed with shopkeers as well.
The court also instructed the government to create an awareness among the people in regard to the spread of the coronavirus by providing the 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 dead tested COVID-19 positive to all the newspapers. Doing so, they say will ensure that there is no complacency.
Addressing the issue of low number of tests being carried out, the government has been told by the court to separate each taluka/city into zones and fix a target for a particular number of random COVID-19 tests to be carried out over a period of one week in the entire state. Furthermore, life-saving drugs such as Remdesivir and Tocilizumab ought to be made available in sufficient quantities and at pocket-friendly prices, the Gujarat High Court has said to the government.
The High Court also queried the government on why a direction should not be issued to set up laboratories at the earliest in 11 districts that do not have any testing laboratories at present. A warning has also been issued to the people by the court asking them not to live in "the bubble of herd immunity". The directive referenced a study conducted by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, saying out of 3,00,543 samples collected so far, only 17.6 percent had antibodies for coronavirus.