BENGALURU: The Karnataka High Court on Friday directed the Union Government to relook at its standard operating procedure (SOP), which may suggest that even those with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 infection can be given entry to religious places, malls and restaurants.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice E S Indiresh passed the order while hearing a petition by the city-based Letzkit Foundation, seeking directions to state and central governments to enforce the SOP strictly.
Observing that nobody will follow the SOP strictly if it does not have penal provisions, the bench said that violations are not considered an offence under the Disaster Management Act. Stringent measures have been listed in the SOP, but can violators be penalised or does the SOP have the legal force, the bench asked.
It pointed out that while the SOP restricts the number of attedees at marriages and funerals at 50 and 20 people, there is no such limit for places of worship. Clauses 4(26) of Religious places, Clause 4(30) of Malls and Clause 4 (35) of Restaurants in the SOP may suggest that persons with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 infection can enter the premises. “Prima facie, we are of the view that the Union government must relook into this aspect,” the bench said.
It said that the state government, meanwhile, has to come out with measures to make SOPs legally enforceable. If SOPs for places of worship are not properly enforced then congregations at such places may lead to the spread of Covid. Since restaurants, places of worships, malls and restaurants have been opened in the state from June 8, all these issues need to be urgently considered, the bench ordered.
Violations during celebrity’s death
During the hearing, the petitioner’s counsel pointed out that social distancing and other norms were violated during the recent death of a celebrity. The bench said that the petitioner can file a memo in this regard and adjourned the hearing to June 16.