Representational image
Representational image
Photo by Bhushan Koyande

Mumbai: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has cracked down on those violating norms that help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The body has decided to impose a penalty of Rs 1,000 for not wearing a mask in public places. Those not wearing masks may face imprisonment up to six months also.

Exercising powers under the Epidemic Act, 1897 and other regulations, BMC Commissioner Iqbal Chahal on Monday issued an order making the wearing of masks compulsory, apart from stipulating that everyone follow social distancing measures in public places.

Chahal said everyone moving for whatsoever purpose and under whatever reason or authority in public places such as streets, offices, shops, markets, clinics, and hospital premises must compulsorily wear masks. Any person who is moving around in his personal or official vehicle must compulsorily wear a mask. Further, any person travelling in public transport, working at any site/office/workplace must compulsorily wear a mask.

No person, staff, officer will attend any meeting/gathering or go to their workplace without compulsorily wearing a mask. The mask can be a standard mask -- either three ply mask or plain cloth mask which are available with the chemists -- or even homemade masks which can be reused after proper washing and disinfection.

‘’Anybody violating this order would be punishable under section 188 of Indian Penal Code (48 of 1860) and a fine of Rs 1000 will be imposed for each such offence by the police officer or the officers appointed by BMC assistant commissioners. All these officers are hereby authorised to impose penalty against the violators. These instructions must be followed very scrupulously,’’ said Chahal in his order.

Chahal has explained in detail why he had to issue an order with a provision of imprisonment and fine. He said it has been observed that after 'Mission Begin Again' was launched, many citizens had begun stepping out of their homes and roaming in public places without wearing any mask. This, he said, was not only unsafe for their own safety but also for the fellow citizens who may come in close proximity with them.

With further gradual relaxations being declared by the government for the movement of citizens, and the re-opening of the shops, offices and public transport systems, there is a possibility that the spread of the virus may be increased.

‘’It has been observed in some studies that wearing a facial mask can reduce the spread of coronavirus substantially from and to people coming in contact with each other, apart from compulsory social distancing measures,’’ said Chahal. He further stated, ‘’To contain the spread of the virus, I have come to the conclusion that in the larger public interest, making compulsory wearing of mask is necessary and must be adhered to by any person who is moving in any public place.’’

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