Violating coronavirus lockdown norms will invite action under IPC sections
Violation of norms or regulations under the law is punishable as per Indian Penal Code (IPC)’s Section 188, which can lead to imprisonment for up to one month for any person disobeying a public servant’s orders. The law combined with Section 188 provides for six-month imprisonment.Updated: Mar 24, 2020 15:54 IST
The Centre on Monday directed states to strictly enforce the lockdowns imposed across the country’s 80 districts a day earlier to deal with the coronavirus threat and take legal action against the violators of the restrictions mostly imposed under the Epidemic Diseases Act, a colonial law enacted in 1897.
The law empowers state governments to prescribe measures and regulations to deal with epidemics. The measures include inspections of travellers using different modes of transportation and segregation in hospitals and other temporary accommodations of people suspected of being infected.
Violation of norms or regulations under the law is punishable as per Indian Penal Code (IPC)’s Section 188, which can lead to imprisonment for up to one month for any person disobeying a public servant’s orders. The law combined with Section 188 provides for six-month imprisonment.
The IPC also has stand-alone provisions to punish those, who indulge in negligent acts likely to spread infectious diseases or those who break quarantine prescribed to check their spread.
IPC’s Section 269 covers cases of negligent acts likely to spread an infectious disease. It states that anybody, who commits any unlawful or negligent act which he/she knows is likely to spread infectious diseases dangerous to life, can be punished with imprisonment of up to 6 months. Such a person can be fined (HOW MUCH) as well.
Thus, violation of lockdown orders is punishable under this provision, too. The significance of the provision is that the unlawful or negligent act need not be unlawful per se. All that the provision requires is that anybody committing the act should be aware that it is likely to spread disease and yet went ahead with it. That is, there is no need of a law or government order declaring that anybody, in the present situation, with coronavirus should not escape quarantine or that a person who has come in contact with a person who has coronavirus should quarantine.
Thus, even organising parties and events in the times of epidemics can also be brought under this provision.
In 1902, one Nidar Mal had stayed at a plague-stricken person’s house and had come into contact with the patient (WHERE). He travelled by train to a neighbouring city and was held guilty under this provision.
IPC’s Section 270 deals with an aggravated form of the offence covered under Section 269. As per Section 270, anybody who does a malignant act which he/ she knows is likely to spread infectious diseases dangerous to life can be punished with imprisonment of up to two years or with fine (HOW MUCH).
Thus, what differentiates this offence from the one covered under Section 269 is that the accused, who does an act with a deliberate intention to cause harm, is punishable under this provision.
Section 271 of the IPC is another provision likely to come into play, particularly when a lockdown is in operation. It makes flouting of quarantine rules punishable by six-month imprisonment. It states anybody, who knowingly disobeys any rule made with the object of isolating places where an infectious disease prevails, will be guilty under the provision.