[COVID-19 pandemic] Not for Writ Court to decide whether use of face masks is "unscientific" or not: Karnataka HC
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[COVID-19 pandemic] Not for Writ Court to decide whether use of face masks is "unscientific" or not: Karnataka HC

Rintu Mariam Biju

The Karnataka High Court recently declined to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the mandatory imposition of the use of face masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its order, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Nataraj Rangaswamy opined that whether mandatory use of masks is right or wrong was for the respective experts to decide.

"Whether the action of the respondents of making the use of masks mandatory is right or wrong is not an issue which can be decided by a writ Court in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. It is for the experts to decide whether the use of masks should be made mandatory and what category and what type of masks should be used by members of the public. The same is the case with the use of PPE kits."

Karnataka High Court

Petitioner Krishna Murthy had contended that for Indian conditions, the use of face masks was "unscientific".

He had also challenged the restrictions on the movement of people from late evening to early morning as being illegal.

Quite strangely, the plea also made a reference to the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who had expressed an apprehension of threat to her life which was not heeded.

Citing this example, he submitted that the Central and state governments must nominate representatives who shall be easily available all the time to anyone who needs to communicate with them urgently.

In response to the prayer regarding restrictions on movement, the Court held,

"...The petitioner is not personally affected by these restrictions. He is of the view that weaker sections of the people will be affected. The directions issued by the Central Government and the State Government under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 are being modified from time to time. Therefore, if exigency created by onset of monsoon requires modification on the restrictions imposed on the movement of the citizens, both the Governments will have to take a call."

With regard to the final prayer, the Bench opined that the reference to Indira Gandhi's assassination has no relevance to the present situation.

It went on to note that both governments were working very hard to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, and in this view, the Court was unable to find fault.

"All the officials of both the Governments are very busy 24x7 in fighting with the situation created by a pandemic. Therefore, we cannot find fault with the Hon'ble Prime Minister, the Hon'ble Chief Minister and the Police Commissioner for not responding to the blogs of the petitioner."

Karnataka High Court

Moreover, the Bench highlighted that the state government had created helplines and publicised official email IDs of various departments.

While disposing of the petition, the Court lauded the petitioner for the efforts that he had undertaken for formulating certain suggestions in the matter.

[Read order here]

Karnataka HC - unscientific use of masks.pdf
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