Taking note of the many instances of violations of COVID-19 norms in wearing masks and maintaining social distancing in the rallies of political parties, their leaders and workers, the High Court of Karnataka on Thursday sought a list of recognised political parties in Karnataka to issue notices to them.
A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice S. Vishwajith Shetty passed the order during the hearing of PIL petitions, filed by Letzkit Foundation, Bengaluru, and Sai Datta, a resident of the city, on violations of norms by celebrities, elected representatives, and political leaders.
The Bench said that directions are required to be issued to the political parties as a large number of violations are by its leaders while taking note of violations by major political parties during election campaign and a rally by the BJP workers to welcome Lok Sabha member Tejasvi Surya on his appointment as national president of the BJP Yuva Morcha.
Meanwhile, the government clarified to the Bench that it never intended to prosecute citizens for not wearing masks and maintaining social distancing as per the Karnataka Epidemic Diseases (KED) Act, 2020, while admitting that there was “unintended mistake” in drafting of the Act, which actually prescribes three months to five years of imprisonment and fine of ₹50,000 to ₹2 lakh.
In a statement, Jawaid Akhtar, Additional Chief Secretary (Health and Family Welfare), said that the “true intention” of the government was to impose only fine for not wearing mask and not maintaining social distancing and this has been uniformly followed in cases of all citizens.
The stringent punishment, the government stated, prescribed in the KED Act were for the more egregious violations under the Act and the government is taking corrective measures to ensure that its policy is actually reflected in the legal position, including but not limited to issuance of fresh ordinance to amend the existing positions.
Government counsel Vikram Huilgol told the Bench that if the government had to prosecute citizens for violating the norm of wearing mask and maintaining social distancing, then lakhs of citizens who where fined for violations are required to be prosecuted by registering First Information Reports (FIRs).
Stating that government would soon issue an Ordinance to correct the “serious and grave errors” that has crept into law unintentionally, Mr. Huilgol submitted stating that the government had realised the mistake in the law only after the court analysed the provisions of the law and posed repeated questions on why political leaders were not prosecuted for violating these norms.