The Gujarat High Court has issued a directive that people not wearing a mask in public would be sent to do community service at non-medical COVID centres. The period of the community service could be between five and 15 days, for four to six hours a day. The directive follows a public interest litigation (PIL) petition seeking the court’s intervention regarding people who violate the rule.
The court observed that the recent surge in COVID-19 cases was leading to an alarming situation and that the State had to take stringent measures to ensure that basic rules were followed.
Gujarat, in particular Ahmedabad, has been aggressive in its efforts to control the spread of the deadly virus. However, after the Navratri and Deepavali season, the general populace had begun to violate several COVID safety norms.
As of December 2, Gujarat reported a total of 2,11,095 cases and 4,001 deaths. Ahmedabad, a hotspot, reported 48,339 cases and 2,070 deaths as of that date. Although the situation in the State is no longer critical, the death rate is among the highest in the country. The court observed that if the State was not strict with implementing rules, it could slip back into the red zone again.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J.B. Pardiwala in its order said: “Such mandate of community service to be implemented for all violators without any discrimination. These duties shall be non-medical in nature, such as cleaning, housekeeping, cooking. The nature of duty shall be appropriately decided by the authorities considering age, qualification and gender of rule violators.”
It is compulsory to wear a mask in public, but the rule is being violated brazenly even after the State government imposed a hefty Rs.1,000 fine in September for those caught not wearing a mask.
The Gujarat High Court order observed that the recent spike in COVID-19 cases was largely because of the negligence and recklessness of the public at large in not adhering to social-distancing norms and not diligently wearing masks in public.
The court said that a person not wearing a mask was not only putting himself at risk, but putting the community at risk. “Hence, the said violator must extend services to the community which is put at risk,” said the order. “As a matter of fact, many scientific studies have called the face mask/covering a ‘vaccine’ for the virus. In such times, there is a great need to instill a habit amongst people to wear face masks, in order to protect the health of the people at large,” said the order.