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SC stays Gujarat high court order on COVID duty for mask violators


The Supreme Court on Thursday granted a stay on a Gujarat High Court order directing the state to come up with a notification to send repeated mask violators for non-medical duty at COVID care centres.

The Supreme Court division bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan observed that the Gujarat High Court’s order directing community services to those failing to wear masks is disproportionate and may lead to health problems. SC, however, asserted that masks are compulsory and violators should be penalized as per law.

Justice Ashok Bhushan observed that those not wearing masks are violating the fundamental rights of others.  

The state had appealed against the order with the solicitor general seeking an urgent hearing in the matter.

What was the Gujarat high court order?

The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday directed the state government to issue a notification providing for non-medical COVID care centre duty for those repeatedly caught for mask violation.

The court asked the state to frame policies to send such violators for non-medical COVID care duty for anywhere from 5 to 15 days. 

Each day a person will be required to work at such centres for 4 to 6 hours. The non-medical work includes record maintenance, housekeeping, and others shall be carried out as part of the punishment for repeatedly violating the face mask in the public rule. 

The court has asked the state to come up with a notification by December 4. The state government on Tuesday submitted before the Gujarat High Court that it is unable to decide on the implementation of a punishment where repeated mask violators are sent for duty at COVID care centres.

What was state’s stand on mask violators

Advocate General Kamal Trivedi submitted before the court that the state is unable to decide the hospitals and COVID centres where such violators should be sent and how to implement it.

The state said once a challan of COVId duty is issued to mask violators, it requires a mechanism to keep track of whether the violator has joined the duty or not. It said implementing the same required additional staff at a time when most state employees are already involved in various activities. 

The state is taking stricter actions and hopefully, the situation will improve, the advocate general argued.


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