Mumbai, Sep 19 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Monday asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to explain under which provisions of law it had made masks mandatory and fined people for violations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Madhav Jamdar was hearing two petitions seeking refund of fines collected by the authorities from people who violated the mask rule.
The petitioners also sought a probe against former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray for misappropriation of public funds to purchase COVID-19 vaccines and forcing people to get vaccinated.
The high court sought to know from the BMC under which provisions of law masks were made mandatory and fines were imposed.
The bench directed the civic body’s counsel Anil Sakhare to also address the court on the next hearing in the plea on section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, under which the government has power to take special measures and prescribe regulations when there is a threat of a dangerous epidemic disease.
“If a notification was issued by the BMC that to contain the pandemic, people have to wear mask and fine would be imposed for not wearing mask, then that was for achieving greater good and court will not interfere,” Chief Justice Datta said.
The bench told Sakhare that there was also a Supreme Court judgment on these lines, and asked him to submit the same on the next date of hearing.
The bench posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks.
Senior counsel S U Kamdar, appearing for the Maharashtra government, stated that the Supreme Court had recently noted that the vaccination drive undertaken by the Centre cannot be faulted and that the same was right and justified given the ongoing pandemic.
“Hence, there is no question of prosecuting (Uddhav Thackeray) for misappropriation of funds,” Kamdar said.
One of the petitions, filed by one Firoze Mithiborwala, through advocate Nilesh Ojha, claimed that the government and BMC’s insistence on citizens wearing masks to cover their mouth and nose while out of their homes, and in public places, was “unscientific”.
The petitioner urged the court to direct the state and municipal authorities to return the money collected so far from the public as fine for not wearing masks in public places. PTI SP ARU ARU
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