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COVID-19 : Penal Laws For Enforcing Pandemic Protocols [Explainer]

Live Law Research Team
24 March 2020 4:27 AM GMT
COVID-19 :  Penal Laws For Enforcing Pandemic Protocols [Explainer]
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Many states in the country have declared lockdown as a precautionary measure to curb the transmission of COVID-19 pandemic.

These orders are imposed invoking the powers under Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and Disaster Management Act 2005. On the top of it, District Magistrates have imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in several districts.

In this backdrop, let us have a look at the penal provisions, which can be invoked to enforce lockdown protocols.

Section 188, Indian Penal Code.

This provision deals with the offence of "Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant".

Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 states that violation of regulations issued under the Act will be an offence under Section 188 IPC.

There are two limbs for Section 188. The first limb of the offence deals with disobedience causing or tending to cause "obstruction, annoyance or injury, or risk of obstruction, annoyance or injury, to any person lawfully employed".

From the point of view of health emergency, the second limb of the offence is relevant, which deals with disobedience causing or tending to cause "danger to human life, health or safety...".

The second limb of the offence is punishable with simple or rigorous imprisonment which may extend up to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.

As per the Explanation given to the Section , it is not necessary that the offender should intend to produce harm, or contemplate his disobedience as likely to produce harm. It is sufficient that he knows of the order which he disobeys, and that his disobedience produces, or is likely to produce, harm.

The offence is cognizable and bailable.

However, for the Court to take cognizance of the offence( including abetment, attempt or conspiracy for the commission of the offence), there has to be a complaint in writing by the concerned public officer as per Section 195 Code of Criminal Procedure. In other words, the Court will not take cognizance of the offence merely on the basis of an FIR.

Section 269 IPC

This provision deals with the offence of "Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life".

This is punishable with with simple or rigorous imprisonment which may extend up to six months, or with fine , or with both.

The offence is cognizable and bailable.

The offence is not listed as a compoundable offence under Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Section 270 IPC

This is a more serious variant of Section 269.

This deals with the offence of "Malignant act likely to spread infection of disease danger­ous to life".

This is punishable with with simple or rigorous imprisonment which may extend up to two years, or with fine , or with both.

The offence is cognizable and bailable.

The offence is not listed as a compoundable offence under Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Section 271 IPC

This deals with the offence of "disobedience of quarantine rule".

This is punishable with with simple or rigorous imprisonment which may extend up to six months, or with fine , or with both.

The offence is non-cognizable and bailable.

The offence is not listed as a compoundable offence under Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.


Extract from the lockdown order imposed in Kerala

Extract from the lockdown order imposed in Kerala


 

Recently, UP Police registered an FIR for offences under Sections 188, 269, 270 and 271 of IPC against singer Kanika Kapoor for attending public functions in violation of quarantine instructions.

The 144 orders issued by District Magistrates in the wake of COVID-19 have a clause stating that the violation of the directions can lead to action under the above mentioned provisions.

Sections 269, 270 and 271 fall within Chapter XIV of the IPC, which deals with offences affecting the public health, safety, convenience, decency and morals

Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 : The 123 Year Old Law Invoked To Combat COVID 19 [Explainer]

Disaster Management Act

The Disaster Management Act has provisions creating penal offences.

Section 51 of the Act is similar to Section 188 IPC, dealing with obstruction of performance of duty by public officer, and refusal to comply with any direction given by the authorities.

Mere act of obstruction or refusal is punishable with imprisonment which may extend up to one year, and if it leads to loss of livers or imminent danger, it will attract imprisonment up to two years.

Sections 52 and 54 deal with making of false claims for relief, and false alarms over disaster leading to panic.

Sanction of the concerned Government is necessary for launching prosecution with respect to offences under this Act. Also, complaint in writing by the authorized officer is necessary for the Court to take cognizance of the offence.







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