Community service for repeat mask rule violators: HC

Send repeat offenders of mask rule to Covid-19 centres for community service: Gujarat HC tells state govt

The Gujarat High Court has pushed the govt to take several measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic in the state

People throng a vegetable market, amid the coronavirus pandemic, in Surat. Credit: PTI Photo

With coronavirus cases surging with every passing day in the state and mass violation of mask rules, the Gujarat High Court on Friday suggested that the state government send repeat offenders to eight days community service at Covid-19 centres where they would perform non-medical duties as a lesson. The state government told the court that it will respond to the suggestion soon.

The division bench of chief justice Vikram Nath and Justice J B Pardiwala told the state government during a hearing on a suo moto public interest litigation that the mask rule was not being strictly complied with. It said that it could be the reason behind the second Covid-19 surge in the state as rule was not being enforced strictly. On Friday, the state recorded 1,607 new cases, its highest single-day spike and 16 deaths across the state. According to reports, Ahmedabad police fined over 1,300 persons on Thursday alone for not wearing masks in public.

The bench's observation came after advocate Vishal Antani raised the issue of implementation of mask penalties and said that the rule is failing in creating a deterrence. Antani added that there should be a mechanism for repeat offenders to send them to Covid-19 centres and perform non-medical duties to understand the gravity of the situation.

Chief Justice Nath sought advocate general Kamal Trivedi's opinion on Antani's suggestion who responded that he will revert after taking instruction from the government. The bench said that if the offenders were told to go to Covid-19 centres for community service, they will remember to wear a mask. The bench was of the opinion that such a provision will bring results.

During the hearing, which was live-streamed on Youtube, Justice Pardiwala said, "People are not ready to understand...we requested them with folded hands, what do they expect now? We should fall down on our knees and request them? People are not worried, god knows what is wrong with their psyche...minimum eight days of community service at a Covid centre may be considered." At the end of the hearing, the bench mentioned in the order, "We feel that if such steps are taken, it will ensure greater implementation of compulsorily wearing masks, which will definitely help us in containing the spread of Covid-19."(sic)

It is to be noted that the High Court has been passing orders forcing the government to take measures to contain the spread of the virus, create required infrastructure, among other things. It was the court's intervention that forced the government to increase the fine for not wearing masks in public places.