The Delhi high court on Friday took cognisance of the violation of COVID-19 protocols in various markets in the national capital and observed that such breaches will only hasten the third wave of coronavirus which cannot be permitted at all.
The high court said if this behaviour of flouting COVID-19 norms continues "we will be in a great trouble". "God help us if all that happens".
It asked the Centre and Delhi government to take strict measures, sensitise shopkeepers and hold meetings with markets and vendors associations in this regard.
A vacation bench of justices Navin Chawla and Asha Menon took note of certain photographs sent to one of the high court judges on WhatsApp by an AIIMS doctor showing scant regard for COVID-19 protocols by street vendors in markets.
"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 observed, adding that "we as a citizen of this city are worried when we see these images".
It further said the memory of the second wave of COVID-19 is still fresh with so many people having suffered personal loss.
"Such breach will only hasten the third wave, which is likely to come and this cannot be permitted," it added.
Taking suo motu cognisance of the photographs, the HC initiated a PIL, directing the Centre, the Delhi government and the Delhi Police to file status reports.
Observing that people need deterrent but it should come from within, the court fixed the next hearing on July 9, directing it be placed before the Chief Justice.
The notices were accepted by Central government standing counsel Anil Soni and Delhi's additional standing counsel Gautam Narayan.
They assured the court that strict measures are already being taken to ensure the protocol is maintained at markets and also followed by street vendors.
The court, however, said it was of the view that certainly more measures are required to be taken.
It can be in the form of more interactions with market and vendors associations and more civil defence and police personnel being deployed at markets and hawkers' places, the bench said.
Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma said the concerns raised by the court will be conveyed to the authorities as "we cannot afford a third wave, just cannot have a third wave".
The Delhi government has allowed resumption of almost all business activities curtailed after the lockdown was imposed during the second wave of COVID-19.
As part of the phased unlock plan, all markets are now allowed to remain open in Delhi between 10 AM to 8 PM.
The high court said government officials, bureaucrats must apply their minds to normalise the lives of Delhiites with compliance to all the protocols as "we cannot have lockdown always".
It said the photographs are mainly of 'thela walas' (vendors) and the market associations should ensure those standing in the vicinity wear masks. Even otherwise people cover their faces in summers to protect themselves from the heatwave and mask is not an extraordinary discomfort, it added.
The bench said proper sanitisation is required in a stricter way and in the right earnest, People cannot be stopped from doing their jobs since it's about their livelihoods, but they have to follow the protocols strictly because if they catch the infection, they will take it home and spread further.
"God help us if all that happens," the bench said.
The Delhi government counsel said there have been more shocking photographs of malls where people can be seen violating the coronavirus norms and it is not that only small vendors do not adhere to protocol.