COVID-19: National Disaster Management Act invoked till April 14; two-year jail term for violators

New Delhi, March 24: Union Home Ministry on Tuesday (March 24) issued strict guidelines for the enforcement of 21-day complete nationwide lockdown from Wednesday in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

The ministry has also invoked the National Disaster Management Act which may result in imprisonment of up to two years for any violation. The announcement was made after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation.

According to the guidelines, 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, besides legal action under Section 188 of the IPC.

According to lawrato.com, under section 188 of Indian Penal Code, “Whoever, knowing that, by an order promulgated by a public servant lawfully empowered to promulgate such order, he is directed to abstain from a certain act, or to take certain order with certain property in his possession or under his management disobeys such direction, shall, if such disobedience causes or tends to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury, or risk of obstruction, annoyance or injury, to any persons lawfully employed, be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both; and if such disobedience causes or tends to cause danger to human life, health or safety, or causes or tends to cause a riot or affray, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.”

The ministry also made key instructions for enforcement of the guidelines.

1. All persons who have arrived into India after 15.02.2020, and all such persons who have been deeded by health care personnel to remain under strict home/ institutional quarantine for a period as decided by local Health Authorities, failing which they will be liable to legal action under Sec 188 of the IPC.

2. Wherever exceptions to above containment measures have been allowed, the organisations/employers rnust ensure necessary precautions against COVID-19 virus, as well as social distance measures. as advised by the Health Department from time to time.

3. In order to implement these containment measures, the District Magistrate will deploy Executive Magistrates as Incident Commanders in the respective local jurisdictions. The Incident Commander will be responsible for the overall implementation of these measures in their respective jurisdictions.

All other line department officials in the specified area will work under the directions of such incident commander. The Incident Commander will issue passes for enabling essential movernents as explained.

Notably, all enforcing authorities have been clearly directed to note that these strict restrictions fundamentally relate to movement of people, but not to essential goods.

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