The Delhi High Court on Friday (June 18) expressed its concern over violation of COVID-19 protocol in the markets of the national capital and warned that it will only hasten the third wave of coronavirus. “Such breach will only hasten the third wave, which is likely to come and this cannot be permitted,” the court said.
Taking suo motu cognisance of the photographs, the HC initiated a PIL, directing the Centre, the Delhi government and the Delhi police to file status reports.
A vacation bench of Justices Navin Chawla and Asha Menon asked the Centre and Delhi government to take strict measures, sensitise shopkeepers and hold meetings with market representatives in this regard.
The HC took note of certain photographs sent by a Delhi AIIMS doctor to one of the high court judges on WhatsApp, which showed street vendors operating while showing scant regard for COVID-19 protocols.
The bench said the photographs are mainly of ‘thela walas’ (vendors) and the market associations should ensure those standing in the vicinity should wear masks. “Even otherwise people cover their faces in summers to protect themselves from the heat and mask is not an extraordinary discomfort,” the court observed.
The Delhi government counsel said there have been more shocking photographs of malls where people can be seen violating the coronavirus norms and it is not that only small vendors do not adhere to protocol.
The HC bench said that everyone will be in great trouble if such flouting of COVID-19 norms continues to take place.
“We have paid a huge price in the second wave. We don’t know if there is any household which has not suffered in the second wave, closely or remotely,” the bench observed, adding that “we as citizens of this city are worried when we see these images”.
The court also observed that people need deterrent but it should come from within. The next hearing will happen on July 9 and the court directed that it should be placed before the Chief Justice.
The notices were accepted by Centre’s Standing Counsel Anil Soni and Delhi’s Additional Standing Counsel Gautam Narayan.
Both assured the court that strict measures are already being taken to ensure the protocol is maintained at markets and also followed by street vendors.
The court, however, said it was of the view that certainly more measures are required to be taken.
It can be in the form of more interactions with market and vendors associations and more civil defence and police personnel being deployed at markets and hawkers’ places, the bench said.
Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma said the concerns raised by the court will be conveyed to the authorities as ‘we cannot afford a third wave, just cannot have a third wave’.
The HC said government officials, bureaucrats must apply their minds to normalise the lives of Delhiites with compliance to all the protocols as ‘we cannot always have lockdown’.
After nearly two months, Delhi reopened on Monday (June 14), allowing all the shops to open. From June 7 onwards, only 50 percent of the shops were operating each day. All shops are now opening from 10 am to 8 pm in the evening, according to the unlock guidelines. There were reports of overcrowding in markets and malls at many places from Monday itself.
The HC bench said proper sanitisation measures need to be strictly implemented. “People cannot be stopped from doing their jobs since it’s about their livelihoods, but they have to follow the protocols strictly because if they catch the infection, they will take it home and spread further. God help us if all that happens,” the bench said.
(With inputs from agencies)