Year on, demand to cancel cases against Covid-19 guideline violators in HP
Though the BJP government is undecided, the issue is likely to come up in the budget session of the assembly, beginning on Friday
Nearly a year since the nationwide lockdown to check the spread of Covid-19; there is growing demand to revoke the cases against people for violating pandemic guidelines. More than 2,500 people were booked under different sections of the Indian Penal Code and the National Disaster Management Act for offences ranging from jumping the quarantine period to not wearing masks or adhering to social distancing.
Though the state government is undecided on the issue, it is learnt that the demand will come up in the budget session of the assembly, beginning on Friday.
“The government booked many people for violating Covid-19 lockdown guidelines last year, but it’s strange that no action was taken against a frontal organisation that held a yagya (community prayer) in Shimla to ward off the virus. The prayer meeting was attended by chief minister Jai Ram Thakur when the pandemic was at its peak. In public interest, the government should withdraw the FIRs registered for such violations,” said Congress leader and Nadaun legislator Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu.
Many among those booked for curfew violation are traders. One such shopkeeper from Chotta Shimla, Ankur Chadha, said: “I got a notice for opening my shop during curfew hours. The situation at that time was such that we couldn’t have shut shop as our daily customers were demanding the supply of essential commodities.”
Most curfew violation cases in Kangra
A total of 2,271 cases of curfew violation were registered in the 13 police districts of the state during the pandemic last year. Most of the cases were registered under Sections 188, 269 and 270 of the IPC and Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act. The curfew was imposed in March last year and continued through April and May, while night curfew remained in force as late as the beginning of this year.
Police data shows that of the total curfew violation cases, the maximum of 355 were registered in Kangra district, which also happens to be the state’s biggest district in terms of population. As many as 301 cases were registered in Shimla district and 229 in Mandi, while 221 cases were registered in Kullu and 206 in the police district of Baddi.
The least number of such cases was registered in the tribal Lahaul-Spiti district, where only eight instances of curfew violation were reported, while 62 cases were registered in Kinnaur. Ninety cases were reported in Hamirpur, which has the highest population density in the state.
‘Police implemented orders, up to govt now’
State director general of police Sanjay Kundu said: “The law will take its own course. The police had strictly enforced the government’s orders.”
He said the police challaned nearly 48,000 people for not wearing masks and collected ₹2.26 crore as fine from them.
When contacted, Kangra superintendent of police Vimukt Ranjan said the cases that were registered under Section 188 (curfew violation) of the IPC have been forwarded to the district magistrate as his permission is required to proceed further in such matters. The cases where more sections were imposed have been put up in court. “It is up to the government whether to withdraw or continue with the proceedings,” he said.
Kangra district magistrate Rakesh Kumar Prajapati said the administration is in talks with the government on what should be the further course of action, particularly in the cases related to curfew violations under Section 188 of the IPC.
250 cases for violating quarantine norms
At least 250 cases were registered against people who violated quarantine. Police data showed 209 cases were registered against people who jumped home quarantine and 41 against those supposed to be in institutional quarantine.
The maximum of 73 such cases were reported in Kangra, 44 in Chamba and 26 in Mandi. No person jumped quarantine in Lahaul-Spiti, where the community had imposed strict quarantine rules besides the local administration.