The Uttar Pradesh Public Health and Epidemic Disease Control Ordinance, 2020, cleared by the Cabinet on Wednesday, prescribes a maximum punishment of life term if “death be caused by intentional (COVID-19) affliction”.
Section 24 of the ordinance on “punishment for intentional affliction” says any person who “intentionally” infects another person with a contagious disease shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for 2-5 years.
Section 25 defines “mass affliction” as infecting five or more persons.
Section 26 states that “whoever causes death by affliction under Sections 24 and 25, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but may extend to imprisonment for life”, and shall also be liable to pay a fine ranging from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.
When contacted, Chief Secretary R K Tiwari said the meaning of “intentionally here is the same as defined in legal terms”.
Under the proposed law, the punishments are defined under different heads, including for “concealment” and “travel by public mode of transport”. The punishment for both these offences is imprisonment for 1-3 years and a fine of Rs 50,000-1 lakh. Section 30 of the ordinance underlines that notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), all offences under this ordinance shall be cognizable and non-bailable.
“No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against any person for anything, which is done or intended to be done in good faith in pursuance of this ordinance,” says Section 31 (1).
The ordinance will be sent to the Governor for approval.
Giving details of the proposed law at a press conference, State Principal Secretary (Health) Amit Mohan Prasad said if any person is found to spread the infection in the community, he/she could be imprisoned for 3-10 years.
In addition, the ordinance also prescribes stringent punishment for attacks on healthcare workers. “The idea is to provide protection to all the corona warriors working in the field,” said State Finance Minister Suresh Khanna.
“There is a provision for punishment ranging from six months to 7 years, and fine ranging from 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh for assault or misbehaviour with health workers, paramedical staff, police personnel, sanitation workers or any corona warrior deployed by the government,” he said.
“There will be strict action against those who spit on corona warriors, throw filth on them, violate isolation norms during quarantine or incite people to attack or misbehave with corona warriors,” said Khanna. “There will be provision for imprisonment for 2-5 years, and fine of Rs 50,000-2 lakh for this,” he said. Prasad said there is also provision for recovery of damage done to any property.
For violation of quarantine rules, the person can be imprisoned for 1-3 years and made to pay Rs 10,000 -1 lakh. Those who escape from hospital can be imprisoned for 1-2 years and made to pay Rs 10,000-1 lakh.
Under the proposed law, the government will set up two authorities for prevention and treatment of the disease: the State Epidemic Control Authority chaired by the CM, and district-level epidemic control authorities chaired by the district magistrates.
While the state authority will advise the government on prevention and control, district authorities will coordinate with the different departments.