Firs Registered For Violations of Lockdown

Countries all over the world have been struck by the Novel Coronavirus “COVID 19”, and most of them have taken stringent measures to curb its spread and protect the people worldwide. There have been stringent policies in place in almost every country with regards to social distancing in order to curb the spread of this deadly virus and contain it as much as possible.

Countries all over the world have been struck by the Novel Coronavirus “COVID 19”, and most of them have taken stringent measures to curb its spread and protect the people worldwide. There have been stringent policies in place in almost every country with regards to social distancing in order to curb the spread of this deadly virus and contain it as much as possible. This has been done in the interest of the people themselves and to safeguard their health and security. Like other countries India too has been affected severely with a population of 130 crore. The country has been under a nationwide lockdown since 22nd March, 2020 which has given rise to a number of crimes and violations due to certain citizens not adhering by these lockdown rules and flouting them despite the measure being in their best interests. The Government along with other authorities have passed certain advisories and issued notifications which are to be followed by each and every individual in the country. Despite this, there have been reportings of innumerable cases wherein citizens have been in open violation to these rules. there have numerous instances of violence by individuals at a very high scale, leading in a rise with the number of registered cases of First Information Reports (“FIR”).

Regulations issued qua Covid-19

The Ministry of Home Affairs had ssued an Order dated 29.03.2020 for the restricting movement of migrants and strict enforcement of lockdown measures since it was observed that there was movement amongst such migrants at a very large scale across the country.

The Government of India had issued an Order dated 24.03.2020 prescribing the lockdown for the containment of COVID19 pandemic in the country.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had also issued Guidelines dated 15.04.2020 on Lockdown measures for the containment of COVID-19 with respect to functioning of different sectors and essential departments along with the imposition of Section 188 IPC  for violators.

Due to this widespread chaos and panic caused by a global pandemic, the central government invoked the Disaster Management Act, 2005 to order a lockdown of the country. Subsequently, the state governments invoked other Acts to support the Centre in its goals of curbing the spread of the virus and in order to address concerns pertaining to the spread of the novel coronavirus on a very large scale.

The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, empowers the state government to initiate temporary regulations to be observed by the public or any person to prevent the outbreak and spread of a disease. Various states have invoked the EDA, 1897, to pass orders and guidelines pertaining to social distancing measures, closure of establishments and limitation on activity.  

Impact of section 188 of the Penal Code

Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (“IPC”)  has been a consonant feature in most of the orders, notifications and directives by the central and state governments. Section 188 is a penal provision invoked in case of non-compliance of the guidelines or directives issued by the centre as well as the state and it is mentioned in Chapter X of the IPC, which covers offences relating to contempt of lawful authority of public servants. It lays down penalties for such contempt of orders of public servants like avoiding the service of summons, non-appearance or non-attendance in response to an order, etc. The provision specifically deals with the offence of disobedience to an order that has been duly passed by a public servant.

There have been a number of debates on the procedure of section 188 and whether an FIR can be registered or not? The interpretation of the section is precedented in a number of cases but the debate on the opposite stand remains the same.

The Covid-19 Pandemic: Outbreak of crimes & violations

Consequent to the nationwide lockdown, the police across the states have reported a huge surge in FIRs in the last 25 days, against individuals who have been found violating the lockdown. This comes as no shock since there have been innumerable violations reported across the country wherein citizens have refused to adhere by the governmental guidelines and instead taken to streets vindictively in order to assert their right to movement despite a clear danger of acquiring this dangerous disease.

As per the Delhi Police, it has already filed FIRs under the Delhi Police Act for violating the lockdown and has impounded 10,000 vehicles and lodged over 40 FIRs for violation  of the home quarantine regime implemented by the government. Despite the fact that these measures have been implemented in the interest of the public, there seems to be very little stopping some individuals from not complying with these measures.

The Uttar Pradesh Police has registered 19,448 FIRs and booked 60,258 people for allegedly violating prohibitory regulations under the current lockdown.

The Maharashtra Police registered 34,010 FIRs for violation of the lockdown. Maharashtra being the state which has been the worst affected in the entire country, this comes as no surprise.

A large number of people were booked for violating government guidelines on religious gatherings. An FIR was filed by the Delhi Police Crime Branch under Section 3 (penalty for offence) of the Epidemic Disease Act 1897 and Sections 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease), 271 (disobedience to quarantine rule) and 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.

Conclusion

There is an urgent need of these FIRs to be heard by special judges and in the very leasts at least a direction must be passed directing them to be heard by special courts since the Judiciary is already heavily burdened with thousands of cases of their own.  These FIRs are mostly related to petty offences of non compoundable nature, thus there must be certain measures taken by the judiciary to hear and dispose off the matters. However, the matter at hand needs to be dealt with very seriously since any violation of this current lockdown could result in a disaster of epic proportions for the country in the future. Stricter punishments for such violators as well as more awareness amongst the general public must be provided in order to educate the masses on the risk of stepping out of their homes and contracting a disease which does not yet have a cure.