COVID-19 protocol, crowd management in markets must be followed scrupulously in festive season: Delhi HC

The Delhi High Court Monday told the authorities here that guidelines and protocols set for COVID appropriate behaviour and controlling of the crowd in marketplaces must be followed scrupulously in this festive season.

The high court‘s order came while hearing a PIL initiated on its own on violation of COVID-19 protocols in various markets in the national capital.

The high court said it does not want to see penalties being collected from people for violation of COVID-19 norms but it wants that the crowd is being managed nicely by the authorities.

We expect from the respondents (Centre, Delhi government and Delhi Police) that these guidelines, Standard Operating Procedure (SoP), COVID appropriate behaviour, and controlling of the crowd at market places will be executed by them scrupulously in this festive season,” a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh said.

All the steps mentioned by the authorities in their respective status reports must be taken and a further status report is filed by them before the next date of hearing on November 30, the bench said.

“Your guidelines, SoP, and protocol must be followed very scrupulously. See this is festival season. Strict compliance is required,” the bench told the counsel for both the governments.

The court said it was keeping the matter pending as it wants to see how the authorities are controlling the situation.

The court noted that in the status reports, the authorities have mentioned the steps taken by them on COVID appropriate behaviour and how to control the crowd at marketplaces as well as for engagement of volunteers for implementation of guidelines and sanitization of public utilities.

The Centre was represented through Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma and standing counsel Anil Soni.

The Delhi government’s counsel submitted that they have timely issued appropriate guidelines and had also shut down markets where it was found that protocols were not being followed properly.

To this, the court said the authorities should ensure that these guidelines, which have been nicely drafted, are strictly complied with.

The Central government had earlier informed the high that it has asked all states and Union territories (UT) to ensure strict compliance with the national directives for COVID-19 management and take necessary measures under the Disaster Management Act.

The Centre had also stated that while the opening of activities after a decline in COVID-19 cases was essential, the states and UTs must ensure that “the whole process is carefully calibrated”.

The high court, in June, had initiated proceedings on its own after taking note of certain photographs sent to one of its judges on WhatsApp by an AIIMS doctor showing scant regard for COVID-19 protocols by street vendors in markets.

The court had observed that such breaches would only hasten the third wave of coronavirus which cannot be permitted at all.

The high court had said if this behaviour of flouting COVID-19 norms continues “we will be in great trouble”.

“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 had observed, adding that “we as a citizen of this city are worried when we see these images”.

It had further said the memory of the second wave of COVID-19 is still fresh with so many people who have suffered personal loss.