The Madras High Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre and the state of Tamil Nadu on a PIL to devise and formulate proper rules and regulations as regards manufacture, quality control, specification, pricing, usage and disposal of face masks by the public at large.
The Division Bench was hearing a petition raising the issue of usage of face masks by the people of the State of Tamil Nadu. It was submitted that despite the fact that the World Health Organisation, the Central Government and other State Governments have issued comprehensive guidelines for the usage and disposal of face masks during the COVID period, the State of Tamil Nadu has not issued any separate G.O., or guidelines, in this regard and "there is abuse and huge waste of such disposed masks which is causing various issues".
The Court granted three weeks' time to the state government to file a Status Report and the Guidelines with regard to the Manufacture, distribution, sale, supply, pricing, Quality Control, Specifications, Usage and Disposal of Face Masks, if any, issued by the government.
In April, a PIL had been filed in the Supreme Court praying that advisory/guidelines be issued for proper handling and disposal of used face masks, which are presently being discharged as household garbage throughout the country, in order to prevent a relapse of COVID-19.
Petitioner-in-person Ankit Gupta, a final year student at NLIU, Bhopal, submitted that assessment of the COVID threat led the government to make wearing of face masks mandatory, non-compliance of which has now been made punishable with fine.
The Supreme Court did not intervene in this matter seeking directions to issue guidelines for proper handling and disposal of used face masks which are being discharged as household wasted on the basis that the NGT had already been seized of the matter. Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta informed the Bench that there were detailed directions which had been issued by the Health, Environment and Home Ministries regarding the methods to be employed for disposal of masks.
"We cannot have multiple hearings in different tribunals. We will leave it to the NGT to consider on how the matter should be publicized. You cannot bring everything to the Supreme Court". On the basis of the same, the petition was disposed off.
Earlier in March, the Kerala High Court has directed the Government to take measures to control the price rise of the essential commodities, viz., face masks and hand sanitizers, and ensure adequate supply of the said commodities in the State of Kerala, subject to the manufacturing capacity.
In view of COVID-19 virus outbreak, the Central Government has issued an order in March regulating the prices of masks and hand sanitizers. It had declared that the retail prices of Melt Blown non-Woven Fabric used in manufacturing masks (2ply & 3ply), shall not be more than the prices prevailing on the day one month prior to 13.03.2020 i.e. the prices prevailing on 12.02.2020. The retail prices of masks (3ply surgical mask), shall not be more than the prices prevailing on the day one month prior to 13.03.2020 i.e. as on 12.02.2020 or not more than Rs.10 per piece whichever is lower and that of mask (2ply) shall not be more than Rs.8 per piece.
In May, The Bombay High Court had also asked the Union of India to inform whether a decision has been taken regarding capping the prices of N-95 masks that are being sold across the country in light of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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