The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday issued notice to the state government and directed the petitioner to implead the Union of India in a petition, challenging the Ordinance passed by the Karnataka Government called 'The Karnataka Epidemic Diseases Ordinance, 2020', to protect all officials engaged in COVID-19 duty, from physical harm.
A divison bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna said the statement of objections should be filed before the court by May 22 and posted the case for further hearing on May 26.
The petition filed by Advocate G R Mohan states that during the lockdown period when Health Workers, doctors and others including police personnel who are trying to identify the persons affected with Coronavirus are attacked for no reasons and several of them have sustained injuries and several properties also destroyed by the anti social elements. One such incident had happened in Bengaluru, in Padarayanapura BBMP Ward.
The Central Government has approved the amendment of the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 thereby making the offence cognizable and non bailable with punishment of imprisonment upto 7 years for attack against Doctors and frontline personnel.
However, the Karnataka Government which came out with the new law has diluted the very purpose of the Ordinance by making the offence Section 9 to be 'Cognizable and Bailable'. By virtue of this the accused persons are entitled to be enlarged on bail for the serious offences being committed by them against the Doctors, Health Workers.
The plea says that doctors, Health Officers of BBMP, ASHA workers are doing their jobs like warriors to detect the patients who are affected with the Corona Virus-COVID-19. The Ordinance as it is brought out by the State of Karnataka, does not instill confidence among the health workers. Even the punishment for obstruction of public servant is upto 3 years and with a fine upto Rs.50,000/- whereas the proposed Central Government Ordinance is imprisonment upto 7 years and fine is upto Rs.7 lakhs.
Thus the Ordinance promulgated by the State of Karnataka in so far as it provides for bail and lesser sentence of imprisonment is liable to be struck down and that the Ordinance of the Central Government which is yet to receive assent of the President of India should alone been forced in the entire State of Karnataka.
The ordinance has come into effect from April 22. It prohibits causing damage to public or private property. Whoever contravenes the provision shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to three years and with fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees.
In addition to the punishment specified the offender shall also be liable for a penalty of twice the value of public or private property damaged and loss caused to the public or private property as determined by the Deputy Commissioner after such enquiry as he deems fit. In case the offender has not paid the penal amount under sub section (1), the said amount shall be recovered under the provisions of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964 (Karnataka Act 12 of 1964) as if it were to be an arrears of land revenue.
The plea prays for a direction to the state to prevail upon the Ordinance being promulgated by the Union of India by way of amendment to Epidemic Diseases Act 1897.