Bombay HC asks Civic Bodies to distribute special masks among PwDs

The Bombay High Court on Friday asked all municipal corporations and local bodies in Maharashtra to manufacture and distribute special masks for speech and hearing-impaired persons.

It also suggested modifications in the design of the sample mask approved by Ali Yavar Jung National Institute of Speech and Hearing Disabilities (Divyangjan) in Mumbai while asking the state to procure such masks.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni was on Friday hearing a PIL filed by Lokshahiwadi Balasaheb Sarode Smriti Prabodhan Upakram – through advocates Asim Sarode and Ajinkya Udane – seeking special masks for the speech and hearing impaired, the penalty for people not wearing masks and proper disposal of biomedical wastes. Advocate Om Suryavanshi, appearing for Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), presented before the court a sample mask designed keeping in mind the needs of people suffering from hearing problems.

“The mask, which is opaque, appears to be more or less of nature as sought in the plea,” the HC noted.

Additional Government Pleader Bhupesh Samant, appearing for the state, told HC that the design of the sample mask has been approved by Ali Yavar Jung national institute in Mumbai and was tested on over 100 specially-abled persons.

“We are of the view that the sign that is printed on one side of the mask to cover the face should also be printed on the other side, to make it clearly visible to the person who is facing another person wearing the mask, else the purpose of such a special mask could be defeated,” the HC said.

It added, “We encourage BMC and all other municipal corporations as well as local bodies to have such masks manufactured and distributed among the people suffering from hearing disability.”

Responding to the plea seeking a hike in the penalty for offenders who do not wear masks, the HC said, “At this stage, no direction is necessary, for we are confident that people in their best interests would wear masks and those who do not, shall be dealt with by the authorities appropriately.” The HC further said that it will hear the petitioner concerning improper management and disposal of used masks and PPE kits on June 22.

“In the meantime, steps shall be taken following the guidelines that have been issued by the Central Pollution Control Board for handling biomedical waste generated during the treatment of COVID-19 and the offenders shall be dealt with following the law,” it added.

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