GUWAHATI: The Gauhati high court on Thursday ordered Assam Police to be proactive on the streets and to enforce a penalty on all the violators of social distancing norms or who did not wear a mask at public and workplaces.
The high court order came in response to public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Tanmay Jyoti Mahanta, a senior advocate. The petitioner has complained that the COVID protocol norms were flouted in the state randomly and the government agencies have failed to enforce the norms strictly.
The state government informed the court that though it has already issued directions for strict implementation of the COVID 19 protocols amongst the public, it has faced a major hurdle from the Legal Remembrancer (LR), Assam, which pointed out technical difficulties in implementing the directions.
According to sources, though the state government has asked all police officers, not below the rank of assistant sub-inspector (ASI) of police shall compound the offence on payment of Rs 500 for the first, second and third offence and on payment of Rs 1000 for the subsequent offences, the home department could not act properly due to non-availability of proper law and authority.
The high court in its order observed, “We are pained at recording that it is common knowledge that the residents of the state in market places and otherwise can be commonly seen without wearing any masks, or wearing masks below nose level which would result in spread of COVID-19. We further find that people get together in groups in market places and in work environments without caring for their own health or the health of the others. .., however, apparently are being flouted because the punitive action provided thereunder is not being taken against the violators of the government orders and notifications.”
Asking for a reply, the court ordered, “We hereby call upon the Legal Remembrancer, Assam to show the reasons for being an impediment in implementing measures for safeguarding the health and lives of the public, without any appropriate cause, in the perception of the learned Senior Standing Counsel, appearing for the Health & Family Department, Government of Assam.”
However, coming in rescue, the high court ordered that in the meantime, anybody violating instructions on the use of face cover would be punished.
“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…in such circumstances, public interest convinces us to pass this order at this stage and juncture. We hereby direct the concerned District Heads of Police, Deputy Superintendents of Police and Officers-in-Charge of the Police Stations to be proactive on the streets and check whether the directions issued vide order dated 08.05.2020 (supra) and this Court are complied with or not. In case the directions are violated, a fine be imposed….We hereby direct the Deputy Commissioners to involve officers/officials from various Departments who would inspect various areas in their respective townships, including Sub Divisions to find out whether the respective police stations/police officers are complying with directions,” the high court order said.
The court has fixed September 17 for the next hearing.