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Supreme Court stays HC order mandating Covid community service for people not wearing masks

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The Supreme Court has on Thursday ordered a stay on the order of Gujarat High Court that directed those failing to wear masks to do community service at Covid-19 centres, calling the order disproportionate and a possible source of health problems. However, the Court has also affirmed that masks are compulsory and violators should be penalised according to the law.

The Supreme Court was today approached by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta seeking permission for circulation of a special leave petition challenging the Gujarat High Court’s order making it compulsory for those who don’t wear masks to serve in Covid wards. The Gujarat Government filed a special leave petition before the Apex Court challenging the order of the Gujarat High Court’s division Bench comprising of the Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J. B. Pardiwala. The Gujarat Government urged the Apex Court to pass an interim order and stay the directions issued by the High Court as they are judicially unmanageable and have no authority of law. T

According to the Gujarat Government, the High Court has failed to consider that in deference to the earlier orders of the High Court, the State has already increased the fine for not wearing face masks/covers and penal action is being taken by the State for strict implementation of social distancing and other norms pertaining to Covid-19. The Court’s directions to utilise the offenders for non-medical services at Covid centres has imposed an additional responsibility upon the State, in respect of monitoring the well-being of such offenders. 

The Gujarat High Court had on Wednesday passed an order directing people to do community service if found not wearing face covers or masks as merely imposing fine was not serving the purpose. The Court had asked the State Government to come out with policy or order directing that all those caught not wearing face cover or masks will be listed for community service and their services will be taken depending upon the nature of service such violators can extend.

The High Court had laid down guidelines directing State to come out with notification mandating it to be followed and also asked the State to file status report regarding its compliance.

Also Read: Delhi High Court asks Delhi govt for response on school tribunal’s VC facilities

According to the High Court’s guidelines, people found without masks/covering in a public place, violating the Covid protocol of social distancing, will be mandated to do community service at any Covid Care centre run by the local authorities and such mandate has to be implemented for all violators without any discrimination. However, the duty should be non-medical in nature including activities such as cleaning, housekeeping, help in cooking and serving the food, preparation of record, data feeding, etc. and are to be decided by the authorities, considering the age, qualifications, gender and health state of the violator.

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