WITH REPORTS emerging about health workers being beaten up or chased away in various parts of the country while checking on coronavirus-infected patients, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Thursday wrote to all states to penalise people who violate COVID-19 containment measures under the Indian Penal Code and the Disaster Management (DM) Act.
In a letter to chief secretaries of all states, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla stated that these penal provisions must be widely publicised. Bhalla had last reminded the states of these provisions on March 31 while asking them to strictly enforce lockdown measures in “letter and spirit”.
Bhalla wrote that in the Iockdown measures issued through the MHA order on March 24, “it is clearly mentioned that ‘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 Sec. 188 of the IPC’…. It is requested that for attention of the public authorities and citizens, penal provisions under the DM Act and IPC should be widely circulated and for violation of Iockdown measures, action under relevant provisions of DM Act and IPC shall be taken by the law enforcement authorities.”
Bhalla also cited the Supreme Court’s observations on the issue: “While referring to the provisions of Disaster Management Act, 2005, and Indian Penal Code, the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed, ‘we trust and and expect that all concerned viz. State Governments, Public Authorities and citizens of this country will faithfully comply with the directives, advisories and orders issued by by Union of India in letter and spirit in the interest of public safety’.”
The letter had with it relevant provisions of the laws concerned attached.
In another letter, Bhalla asked the states to strictly enforce social distancing while disbursing money to beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana.
He wrote: “As you are aware, under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PM-GKY) package, disbursement of money to large number of beneficiaries will take place from tomorrow. In this regard, the Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance, has given detailed guidelines such as staggering of account holders to avoid crowding and maintaining social distancing; publicising the modalities of staggering and cash distribution; and provision of adequate security personnel at bank branches and business correspondents to maintain law and order and social distancing.”
The letter stated that the departments concerned of the state governments or UT administrations, district authorities and field agencies should be informed on these.
“They shall take all necessary measures to ensure smooth disbursal of money to the beneficiaries of PM-GKY. An action taken report may please be sent to the Ministry,” the letter stated.
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