During the lockdown, Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code has been widely invoked against those not following it. In a communication to the states on March 24, the Home Ministry said persons violating the containment measures will be liable to be punished under provisions of the Disaster Management Act 2005, besides Section 188 IPC. A look at these and related provisions:
Section 188 IPC deals with those disobeying an order passed by a public servant, and provides for imprisonment ranging from one to six months. For those violating orders passed under the Epidemic Diseases Act, Section 188 IPC is the provision under which punishment is awarded.
Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 provides for punishment for two kinds of offences: obstructing any officer or employee of the government or person authorised by any disaster management authority for discharge of a function; and refusing to comply with any direction given by the authorities under the Act. Punishment can extend to one year on conviction, or two years if the refusal leads to loss of lives or any imminent danger.
For spreading fear
Section 505 IPC provides for imprisonment of three years or fine, or both, for those who publish or circulate anything which is likely to cause fear or alarm. Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act provides for imprisonment, extending to one year, of those who make or circulate a false alarm or warning regarding a disaster or its severity or magnitude.
For false claim to aid
Under Section 52, Disaster Management Act, whoever makes a false claim for obtaining “any relief, assistance, repair, reconstruction or other benefits” from any official authority can be sentenced to a maximum of two years imprisonment and a fine will be imposed on the person.
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For refusing to do duties
In case of refusal or withdrawal of any officer who has been tasked with any duty under the Act, the officer can be sentenced to imprisonment extending to one year. However, those who have written permission of the superior or any lawful ground are exempt from such punishment. A case cannot be initiated without the explicit sanction from the state or central government.
For refusing to help
Any authorised authority under the Act can requisite resources like persons and material resources, premises like land or building, or sheds and vehicles for rescue operations. Though there is a provision for compensation under the Act, any person who disobeys such an order can be sentenced to imprisonment up to one year.
For any offence under the Disaster Management Act, a court will take cognisance only if the complaint is filed by the national or state or district authority, or the central or state government. However, there is another provision: if a person has given notice of 30 days or more about an alleged offence, and about his intention to file a complaint, he or she can approach the court which can then take cognisance.
The Act protects government officers and employees from any legal process for actions they took “in good faith”. Under the Epidemic Diseases Act too, no suit or other legal proceedings can lie against any person for anything done or intended to be done under good faith.
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