Covid guidelines on face masks & social distancing violated with impunity: SC

Covid guidelines on face masks & social distancing violated with impunity: SC

New Delhi: People are violating with impunity the COVID-19 guidelines on wearing of face masks at public places and are not adhering to social distancing norms, the Supreme Court said on Thursday while pulling up the authorities for not ensuring strict compliance of these measures to contain coronavirus.

The apex court questioned the authorities over large gatherings including political and social during the pandemic time and said the Centre and states should give suggestions so that appropriate directions can be issued to implement these guidelines and also for ensuring its compliance.

You give suggestions on what is needed to be done for implementation of these guidelines on face masks and gatherings. People are violating them with impunity. What should be done you tell us. We will fill up the gaps, a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said.

The bench, also comprising Justices R S Reddy and M R Shah, made the remarks while hearing a matter in which the apex court had taken cognisance on the issue of proper treatment of COVID-19 patients and dignified handling of dead bodies in hospitals.

The top court said there are guidelines in this regard but the problem is of lack of will to strictly implement them.

These guidelines are not implemented strictly, the bench observed.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre and Gujarat government, referred to the affidavit filed by the Central government and said there are deficiencies which needs to be addressed by the states.

It has been pointed out that guidelines with regard to wearing of masks and keeping social distancing are not being followed in almost all of the states. It is submitted that even though there are stringent regulations including imposing of fine on non-wearing of masks, yet desired results have not been achieved. It has also been submitted that there has been large public gathering including political, religious, ceremonial where the social distancing is given a go-bye and there are no appropriate mechanism to check such social gatherings, the bench noted in its order.

The Solicitor General and other counsel appearing for different states have requested time to give appropriate suggestions in the above regard so that appropriate directions may be issued by this court to implement the guidelines and to ensure the compliance. The suggestions may be given by December 7, the bench said and posted the matter for hearing on December 9.

Mehta referred to another affidavit filed by the Centre on the issue of fire safety measures in hospitals across the country and said appropriate directives have been issued to the states and Union Territories (UTs).

I must not present a rosy picture that everything is fine. There are deficiencies, Mehta told the bench.

The bench observed, You have to find out how many COVID hospitals are without proper fire safety measures .

The top court had on November 27 taken cognisance of the fire incident in a designated COVID-19 hospital in Gujarat's Rajkot in which several patients had died and had also raised the issue of lack of proper fire safety measures in hospitals across the country.

During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing on Thursday, the bench was told by one of the lawyers that there is lack of oxygen supply and hospital beds in Himachal Pradesh to deal with COVID-19.

Mehta said this issue should be brought to the notice of the Union Health Ministry and it would be immediately sorted out administratively.

Issue notice to the state of Himachal Pradesh to file a status report regarding treatment of COVID patients in different hospitals, infrastructure and facilities available therein, the bench said.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court stayed the Gujarat High Court direction asking the state to forthwith come up with notification that any person found to be not wearing face mask in public place or violating social distancing norm be mandated to do community service at COVID-19 care facilities.

A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan pulled up the state authorities for not implementing the COVID guidelines issued by the Centre as well as Gujarat government and said there is total lack of will in enforcing these measures.

The apex court, while considering the submissions of Gujarat government which said that directions issued by the high court are harsh and disproportionate , observed that persons without face masks and those not following social distancing norms are violating the fundamental rights of other and authorities must ensure that guidelines are strictly implemented.

The problem is that there is no implementation of guidelines. There is total lack of will so far as implementation part is concerned. There are large gatherings, what the police is doing, said the bench, also comprising Justices R S Reddy and M R Shah.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Gujarat government, told the bench that there is problem in almost every state that people are not wearing masks and not following social distancing norm but probably this is not the


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