Strictly Implement The Rule Indicating Punishment For Non-Wearing Of Mask, Spitting In Public Places, Etc.: Madras HC

In a latest, landmark, laudable and learned judgment titled N Rajkumar v. The Chief Secretary to Government and others in Case No. : W.P. No. 9927 of 2020 delivered on September 17, 2020, the Madras High Court Bench comprising of Mr Justice MM Sundresh and Mrs Justice R Hemalatha directed the State Government to strictly implement the amended Rule (framed indicating the punishment for non-wearing of the mask, violating social distancing and spitting in public places) which came into being pursuant to the above Government order dated 04.09.2020. It is important to note that the Court also directed that due publicity will have to be given to the Rule and the action that is likely to be taken. Very rightly so!

To start with, the ball is set rolling in para 1 of this notable judgment authored by Justice MM Sundresh for himself and Mrs Justice R Hemalatha wherein it is observed that, “This writ petition has been filed by the petitioner, who is a practicing Lawyer, seeking appropriate action on the part of the respondents towards the banning of spitting in public in tune with the provisions of The Prohibition of Smoking and Spitting Act, 2002, particularly, in the light of Pandemic situation.”

As it turned out, it is then most remarkably pointed in para 2 that, “Today, when the matter is taken up for hearing, Mr. R. Vijayakumar, learned Additional Government Pleader produced a Government Order in G.O. (Ms.) No. 326, Health and Family Welfare (AB2) Department, dated 04.09.2020, by which, in exercise of power conferred under Section 138-A of the Tamil Nadu Public Health Act, 1939, relevant Rule has been framed indicating the punishment for non-wearing of mask, violating social distancing and spitting in public places which reads as follows:-

“THE RULE

The offences punishable under sub-section (2) of Section 76, of the Tamil Nadu Public Health Act, 1939 (Tamil Nadu Act III of 1939), as specified in column (2) of the Table hereunder are declared as compoundable for the amount specified in the corresponding entry in column (3) thereof.

THE TABLE

Serial No.
Offences
Amount Rs.

Violation of Quarantine measures as ordered by the appropriate authority from time to time.
500/- (Rupees five hundred only)

(i)                       Non wearing of mask covering mouth and nose as ordered by the appropriate authority from time to time
200/- (Rupees two hundred only)

(ii)                   Spitting in public places
500/- (Rupees five hundred only)

(iii)                Violation of social distancing norms by individuals in public places of gatherings as ordered by the appropriate authority from time to time.
500/- (Rupees five hundred only)
3.
Violation of Standard Operating Procedures in salon and spa gymnasium, commercial establishments or such other public places as ordered by the appropriate authority from time to time
5000/- (Rupees five thousand only)
4.
Non-adherence of the guidelines issued by the Government to be followed in containment zone:-

(i)                        By individuals
500/- (Rupees five hundred only)

(ii)                   In respect of vehicles or commercial establishments
5000/- (Rupees five thousand only)”
Most significantly and to say the least, para 3 then states that, “Though the aforesaid rule has come into being, the learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that it has not been followed in letter and spirit. We have already issued appropriate directions earlier to the authorities in the State of Tamil Nadu to implement the provisions strictly. We only reiterate that the amended Rule which came into being pursuant to the above said Government Order dated 04.09.2020 will have to be implemented strictly by the respondents. Due publicity will have to be given on the Rule and the action that is likely to be taken.”

What’s more, para 4 then states that, “Insofar as the other issues sought to be raised by the learned counsel for the petitioner with respect to segregation of medical wastes with the other wastes, we are not willing to go into the same for want of appropriate respondents. Accordingly, we are not inclined to go into the same. However, liberty is given to the petitioner for filing a comprehensive writ petition.”

Finally, it is then held in the last para 5 that, “This Writ Petition is disposed of with the above directions. No costs.”

Over and above to what has been stated, what is finally most crucial is the implementation part. Just enacting strict rules is not adequate as they have to be followed by strict implementation. This is exactly what the Madras High Court in this latest, landmark and extremely laudable judgment has sought to convey and this is its bottom-line also! No denying it!

Sanjeev Sirohi

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