People not wearing masks in public spaces are violating the fundamental right to life of everyone else, the Apex Court said on Thursday (December 3, 2020) as it implored all states to enforce the guidelines on wearing masks & social distancing scrupulously in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.
At the same time, the Supreme Court stayed a Gujarat HC order that sought to punish those not wearing masks in public by assigning them to COVID-19 centres to perform non-medical duties, terming the punishment "disproportionate”.
A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan regretted that people have been recently showing a lack of will to follow the guidelines meant to prevent the spread of the virus, & the authorities were apathetic in implementing the norms on masks & social distancing. "They may hamper health of other people,” remarked the bench, which also included Justice RS Reddy & Justice MR Shah.
The Bench told Mehta that "There is a lack of will everywhere".Mehta accepted that it was a pan-India problem and that certain urgent measures, including the imposition of a higher fine on violators, can be ordered by the Supreme Court. At this, the bench reiterated that enhancing the fine may not suffice until there is proper implementation. Mehta, on behalf of the Government of Gujarat, had sought a stay of the high court order to send those not wearing masks in public to perform non-medical duties in Coronavirus centres as punishment.
The bench concurred with the solicitor general that such punishment may pose serious health risks even to non-Covid-19 persons and stayed this part of the order. It further asked all State Governments to submit suggestions by Monday, 07 December, 2020 on how to control public gatherings & ensure compliance with the requirement of wearing masks & maintaining social distancing. The bench said it will consider issuing directions for all states after the responses are received.