Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Friday (July 2) rejected the state government’s proposal to reduce the penalty for not wearing a mask in public amid the Coronavirus outbreak from Rs 1,000 to Rs 500, saying that some form of deterrence must endure in order to prevent the virus from spreading.
Attorney General Kamal Trivedi requested a reduction in the fine amount, but justices Bela Trivedi and Bhargav Karia said that the court would decide on this after half of its population has been immunized against COVID-19.
The special bench was hearing a suo motu petition along with a set of related petitions regarding the coronavirus situation in the state.
A few months back, the state government raised the fine following a ruling by the High Court. Advocate general Trivedi said this on Friday in a virtual hearing. ‘We did it because times were different, people were not disciplined, people were not ready to observe rules. But today, we have observed that people are adhering to rules, people are falling in line and that is why we don’t see much violations,’ the AG said.
According to him, the state government is seeking a half-penalty reduction because the big fine is making it hard for ‘people from the lower strata’ to pay it.
However, the bench said, ‘We are still expecting a third wave of coronavirus. Unless there is deterrence, people will not be disciplined. Let at least 50 per cent of our population be vaccinated, then we will think of reducing 50 per cent of the fine,’ Justice Trivedi said.
The Gujarat High Court Advocates Association, represented by Percy Kavina, also made an appeal for relaxation in the fine. ‘I agree with the advocate general on this. When you make the punishment not commensurate with the crime, in fact, the crime increases. A modest fine will also have a deterrent effect,’ said Kavina.
Moreover, Kavina argued that the police should not collect fines from those who were caught wearing masks just below their nose but should let them go after they are told to wear it properly.
Kavina’s suggestion was rejected by Justice Karia and said, ‘We can’t control the crowd. Let them at least wear masks.’
On July 9, the bench will conduct a further hearing in this case.