OFFENCES AND PENALTIES RELATING TO VIOLATION OF LOCKDOWN MEASURES – COVID 19

The Central Government and also the respective State Governments are continuously taking necessary steps in order to control the spread of COVID-19 (the Corona Virus) in India. One of such measure is the announcement of the lockdown in the entire country.

The Central Government and also the respective State Governments are continuously taking necessary steps in order to control the spread of COVID-19 (the Corona Virus) in India. One of such measure is the announcement of the lockdown in the entire country. This was done with a view to curb human interaction and encourage the new norm is social distancing amongst the people in order to ensure that the novel coronavirus is contained and curbed from spreading as much as possible. Especially considering the fact that there is no known vaccine to prevent this virus, our best option is to promote and implement social distancing and prevention of large or small gatherings to contain the spread of this virus.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had issued consolidated guidelines on lockdown measures to be taken by the Ministries/Departments of Government of India and States/UTs Governments/Administrations, so as to break the chain of transmission of the COVID-19 in the country.

The MHA vide its Letter No. D.O. No. 40-1/2020-DM-I dated 01.04.2020 addressed to all States through their Chief Secretaries, has requested them to strictly implement the lockdown measures in letter and spirit, by exercising their powers under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, without allowing any exceptions.

Reiterating the above message, the Union Home Secretary, has written to all States vide a Letter no. D.O. No. 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) dated 02.04.2020 requesting them to widely publicize amongst the authorities and the  public, the penal provisions under the Disaster Management Act and the IPC regarding violations of  the lockdown measures, to fight COVID-19.

It has been stressed that strict action must be taken by authorities against all violators of the lockdown measures.

 

Let us look at the various provisions under which a person may be booked and prosecuted on violation or obstruction of enforcement of the lockdown measures

Disaster Management Act and the Indian Penal Code

Under the Lockdown measures issued vide the MHA Order No. 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) dated 24.03.2020, it is clearly mentioned that “any person violating these containment measures will be liable to be proceeded against as per the provisions of Section 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DMA), besides legal action under Sec. 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).”

  • Section 51 DMA (Punishment for obstructing or refusal to comply with any direction given by the Governments)
  • Section 52 DMA (Punishment for making false claims)
  • Section 53 DMA (Punishment for misappropriation of money or materials, etc.)
  • Section 54 DMA (Punishment for circulating a false alarm or warning)
  • Section 55 DMA (Offences by Departments of the Government)
  • Section 56 DMA (Failure of officer in duty or his connivance at the contravention of the provisions of this Act)
  • Section 57 DMA (Penalty for contravention of any order regarding requisitioning)
  • Section 58 DMA (Offence by companies)
  • Section 59 DMA (Previous sanction for prosecution)
  • Section 60 DMA (Cognizance of offences)

Punishment for offences under the Disaster Management Act may extend to two years of imprisonment or fine or both depending upon the offence committed.

  • Section 188 IPC (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) – Punishment may extend to six months of imprisonment or fine or both.

Apart from these, a person may also be booked under certain other sections of IPC like:

  • Section 269 IPC (Negligent act are likely to spread infection or disease dangerous to life) - Punishment may extend to six months of imprisonment or fine or both;
  • Section 270 IPC (Malignant act likely to spread infection of disease danger­ous to life) - Punishment may extend to two years of imprisonment or fine or both;
  • Section 271 IPC (Disobedience to quarantine rule) - Punishment may extend to six months of imprisonment or fine or both.

Essential Commodities Act and Prevention of Black marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980

In case a person hoards or is involved in black marketing of essential commodities, he/ she can be booked and prosecuted as per the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act where an offender can be imprisoned for a period between six months and seven years, or fine, or both. In this regard the Union Home Secretary, has written to all States vide a Letter no. D.O. No. 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) dated 07.04.2020 advising them to take urgent steps to ensure availability of essential goods like foodstuff, medicines, medical equipment etc,  by invoking provisions of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. It is further advised that the State/ Union Territory government may also consider detention of offenders under the Prevention of Black marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980.

National Security Act

There have been incidents of misbehavior within the nation as a result of the stress and chaos caused due to the loackdown. This includes  an assault on police personnel as well as several medical staff and doctors. This is highly unprecedented since the very people in charge of maintain and safeguarding us from the pandemic situation in the country are now being attacked by the people because of widespread distress and strife. In such a case, an offender may also be booked under the stringent provisions of the National Security Act (NSA). Under the NSA, a person can be detained for up to 12 months without a charge. A person can be also held for 10 days without being told about the charges against them. For eg:- UP state government has already issued a directive that "During the lockdown, strict action will be taken against those who attack the police at any place in the state. They will be booked under the NSA."

CONCLUSION

With the number of infected persons still increasing, social distancing is the need of the hour. It is every citizen’s obligation-cum-responsibility to strictly follow the lockdown rules and regulations as announced by the Central Government and State Governments from time to time. Violation, obstruction, false claim during this lockdown may lead to imprisonment, or fine, or both. This is a necessary step towards ensuring that the virus is contained and does not reach the masses on an even larger scale.