Guj HC refuses govt's request to reduce mask violation fine

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Ahmedabad, Jul 2 (PTI) The Gujarat High Court on Friday turned down the state government's proposal to reduce the penalty for not wearing a mask in public amid the coronavirus outbreak from Rs 1,000 at present to Rs 500 saying some form of deterrence must remain to stem the spread of the virus.

When Advocate General Kamal Trivedi insisted on a reduction in the fine amount, the High Court bench comprising Justices Bela Trivedi and Bhargav Karia said the court will decide on this request once 50 per cent of the state's population is vaccinated against COVID-19.

The special bench was hearing a suo motu PIL along with a set of connected petitions regarding the coronavirus situation in the state.

During Friday's virtual hearing, advocate general Trivedi said the state government had increased the fine from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 following an HC directive a few months back.

'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.

He said the state government's request to reduce the penalty by half is driven by 'popular demand' of the masses, adding that 'people from the lower strata' were finding it hard to pay the hefty fine.

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.

Senior advocate Percy Kavina, appearing for the Gujarat High Court Advocates Association, also pitched for some 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.

Kavina also argued the police should not collect fines from those who were caught wearing masks just below their nose, but must let them go after telling them to wear it in the right manner.

Rejecting Kavina's suggestion, Justice Karia said. 'We can't control the crowd. Let them at least wear masks'.

Justifying the Rs 1,000 penalty, Justice Karia said the fine for such violation in other countries is nearly Rs 40,000.

The bench would conduct further hearing in this case on July 9. PTI PJT PD BNM BNM BNM

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