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Guwahati High Court directs Assam Government to penalize people without masks in public places

Guwahati High Court has directed the Assam Government to penalize the people, who are not wearing masks and violating the COVID-19 guidelines, issued by the government in public interest.

The locals have maintained physical distancing neither in public places nor at work spaces, which has resulted in numerous people, being infected by the coronavirus in recent times. Tanmay Jyoti Mahanta in a PIL (Public Interest Litigation), argued that the state agencies have failed in implementing mandatory use of proper face masks by the residents of the state, who move out of their houses and that, the residents have flouted the notifications issued by the Government of India and the Assam Government. Mahanta requested the court to issue a “strict and proper” direction to the administration.

Acting on the PIL, a division bench, comprising chief justice Ajai Lamba and justice Manish Choudhury, issued the order on Thursday. The court stated, “We hereby direct that, anybody violating instructions dated 08.05.2020 (supra) on use of face cover would be punished as suggested vide order dated 08.05.2020. This order is being issued in view of the fact that the hospitals are overflowing with COVID-19 positive patients. The oxygen is already in short supply in the hospitals. The Government is spending from its limited resources and coffers. For the benefit of the poor, COVID-19 tests are being conducted without any cost. In such circumstances, public interest convinces us to pass this order at this stage and juncture”

Assam Health Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma said that Guwahati High Court has directed Deputy Commissioners (DC) and Superintendent of Police (SP) of all districts in Assam to ensure, people wear face masks and maintain physical distance in public places and inspect various areas in respective townships including sub divisions to find out whether the respective police stations/officers are complying with the directions issued. The court has ordered to impose a fine of Rs 500 for the first, second and third offence for not wearing a face mask and Rs 1000 for the subsequent offences. As per the government instructions, anybody violating these instructions of compulsory face masks in public places will be punished under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code. The High Court will also monitor the fine, collected by the State Government and has instructed to deposit the fines collected into the Government Treasury through treasury challan.

The Health Minister also announced that the State Government would launch a massive awareness drive from Sunday to make people wear face masks and maintain physical distance in public places. The whole event emphasized that in the absence of potential medicine or vaccine, wearing the face covers and complying with the norms of physical distancing are the only ways to avoid the spread of the virus.