Published on: April 5, 2022 at 17:53 IST
The Bombay High Court agreed to hear a Plea seeking to declare that it was Illegal in Mumbai to fine citizens for not wearing mask by ‘clean up marshals’ during COVID-19 lockdown.
A Bench of chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Makarand Karnik ordered the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to file its responses in the matter by the end of the June and posted the matter for further hearing in the second week of July.
The Bench was hearing the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the Activist Feroze Mithiborewala in which he challenges the Standard Operating Procedures issued by the Maharashtra Government on March 1.
As per the Standard Operating Procedure, Unvaccinated persons are not allowed to travel in Public Transport or Restricted to enter into a public place.
The Government Pleader, Priyabhushan Kakade informed the Judges that State has withdrawn all the Restriction.
“All citizens are grateful for this Court’s intervention,” Advocate Nilesh Ojha appearing for the Petitioner told the Bench.
Chief Justice Datta then wanted to know that whether everyone is now allowed in Public Transport.
“Yes, every restriction including masks etc. has been withdrawn,” Kakade told the Judges.
Advocate Nilesh Ojha than pointed out on that aspect of his Petition that yet to be decided.
“The other aspect is about the Extortion and Illegal collection of fines…They (authorities) claim to have done this collection (of fines) well within the Rules…But there is no Provision as such…They have recovered over ₹120 crore from citizens in Mumbai. Thus, the money should be paid back to the citizens as it was collected in Breach of Laws in this field,” he said
To substantiate his Case, Advocate Nilesh Ojha referred to an Order passed by the Supreme Court ordering the Uttar Pradesh Government to refund the fines collected from those opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act.
“Why should they get back the money through a Public Interest Litigation? Why can’t they themselves come and challenge the action initiated against them? Not all of these citizens who are fined by the civic body are poor people. There might be even rich people among these. So, can’t the rich come to Court and seek the refund?” Chief Justice Datta questioned.
The High Court while accepting his prayer decided that the fine collected were Illegal.