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Those Not Wearing Masks Violating Other Citizens’ Fundamental Rights: SC

The SC decided to stay the interim order passed by Gujarat high court which directed those not wearing masks in public places to do social service at Covid care centres after the State government argued that the order could do more harm to people.

Updated: Dec 03, 2020, 14:26 IST

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the December 2 order passed by Gujarat high court mandating social service duty at Covid care centres for those found not wearing masks in public. The court also sought suggestions from the Centre and the State governments on ways to ensure compulsory wearing of masks and maintenance of social distancing by the public at large.

The three-judge bench headed by justice Ashok Bhushan held that the state must vigorously enforce the standard operating procedure (SOP) released by the Centre for mandatory wearing of masks and keeping social distancing to contain the spread of Covid 19 disease.

“Those people not wearing masks in public are violating the fundamental right (right to life and health) of other citizens,” observed the bench, also comprising justices RS Reddy and MR Shah. The bench noted that in the State, people were gathering in thousands and there was no mechanism to report such gatherings.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for Gujarat, had opposed the high court order, calling it well-intentioned but claiming that the consequences of its implementation will be bad. Mehta informed the court that those violating mandatory wearing of masks are being fined Rs 1000 by the State Police.

The bench agreed to stay the interim direction of Gujarat HC on the appeal filed by the State stating that such a direction will cause more harm to people by exposing them to the risk of catching infection. However, it noted that wearing of masks is mandatory and stare authorities shall take every action to punish violators, including levy of fine.

The order of the HC was passed on a PIL by a lawyer named Vishal Awtani, who complained against the lack of enforcement of mandatory norms of wearing masks and maintaining social distancing by people across the State.

Mehta shared the concern of the court and said that the problem is being witnessed throughout the country as this phenomenon relates to a “culture of indiscipline” prevailing among people.

The bench sought suggestions from the Centre and States as it said, “There is a standard operating procedure in place put by (the) Centre but how is it to be implemented.” The States will give suggestions on how they propose to implement rules about mandatory wearing of masks and social distancing. The Court listed the appeal by Gujarat government for further hearing in the second week of January.

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