Expressing concern over citizens’ non-compliance of Covid norms, the Gujarat High Court on Friday favoured a suggestion that community service at Covid care centres may be considered for repeat offenders. The matter came up while the court was taking up Covid-related issues as part of its suo motu public interest litigation.
Hearing an application regarding penalty for not wearing mask, Chief Justice Vikram Nath, addressing government counsels, said, “This is a very important issue. This mask business is not being strictly complied with or enforced by the state… that is the reason for the second revival of Covid-19 spike.”
According to petitioner-advocate Vishal Antwani, implementation of mask penalties in Gujarat was unsatisfactory and was failing to create a deterrence… Antwani suggested that repeat offenders should provide community service, doing non-medical duties in Covid centres, so that they understand the gravity of the situation.
The bench asked the government counsel for their opinion and the Chief Justice also added, “Once you tell them (repeat offenders) to go to a Covid centre for community service, all their life they will remember to wear a mask… I think this will have some deterrence.”
Advocate general Kamal Trivedi said, “I welcome that… only anxiety is about the standards of managing.”
The state government also told the court that of the hundreds caught without masks in Ahmedabad, 47 were found Covid-positive by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. All of them were asymptomatic. The bench expressed concern over this and termed it “alarming”.
The bench agreed that advocate Awtani’s suggestion “needs to be given a serious thought”. Justice JB Pardiwala added, “People are not ready to understand… we requested them with folded hands, now what do they expect? Should we 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.”
The bench added that the issue required “urgent attention”, at the level of state as well as the court.
Advocate general sought time till December 1 to take instructions with respect to the on-ground feasibility of the proposal.
The court in its order recorded, “We also feel that if such steps are taken, it will ensure greater implementation of compulsorily wearing masks, which will definitely help us contain the spread of Covid-19.”
The petitioner advocate also sought an increase in penalty for not wearing masks in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot to Rs 2,000. At present, it is Rs 1,000 across the state.
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