The Madras High Court on Tuesday dismissed a PIL challenging the Tamil Nadu government’s move to impose fine ranging from Rs 200 to Rs 5,000 after holding non-wearing of masks, failure to maintain physical distance and violating other COVID-related precautions as compoundable offences.
The petitioner, R Muthukrishnan, an advocate, had submitted that the move to impose fine without statutory backing for not wearing masks and non-adherence to SOPs amounted to violation of rights Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.
He contended that the government had collected several crores in fines despite no such provisions available under the Tamil Nadu Public Health Act of 1939. He also argued that the Act, under which the government had declared non-wearing of masks a compoundable offence, nowhere stated that a ‘violation’ by an individual is an offence.
However, the special government pleader submitted that a gazette notification in this regard had been issued by the Health Secretary and there was no need for prior approval from the Governor. He also submitted that the notification had been issued in accordance with the rules which had been framed by the Governor, exercising powers under Article 166(3) of the Constitution, for allocation of business to various departments.