The Bombay High Court will decide in July whether the fines collected by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) from citizens for not wearing masks is illegal or not.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice MS Karnik has meanwhile asked the corporation to file a detailed affidavit.
The HC was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) by an individual, Firoz Mithiborwala, challenging the state government's decision to permit only the fully vaccinated people to use the public transport.
The PIL questions the validity of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the Maharashtra government to continue restrictions against unvaccinated citizens and against those citizens who are not fully vaccinated against COVID from travelling in public transport.
The HC the court clarified that it would not go into the issue of returning the amount collected by the corporation towards fine.
“Even rich people were fined. Citizens can come personally and challenge the action initiated against them by clean up marshals,” said Chief Justice Datta.
However, Mithiborwala’s advocate, Nilesh Ojha, pointed out that if the SOP was held to be illegal then the fine collected under the SOP, too, would be illegal.
Mithiborwala has challenged the government circular dated March 1, 2022, listing the SOP and safety measures to be followed by citizens in view of the pandemic. The restriction on public transport, including local trains, for the unvaccinated has been continued in this circular. Terming the restrictions as arbitrary and unconstitutional, Mithiborwala alleged that it was an “indirect attempt” on the part of the Maharashtra government to make vaccination compulsory.
The HC then asked the government to reply and kept the PIL for hearing in July.