Coronavirus Update: Govt has more legal options under Indian Penal Code to ensure advisories are obeyed
BL Soni

Mumbai: Hospitals across India are swamped with coronavirus cases. The country's tally of positive cases is continuously increasing and has crossed the 300 mark. One of the major reason for this situation is that all the precautionary advisories issued by the government have gone for a toss with citizens failing to scrupulously follow the guidelines to contain the deadly virus.

Basics of hygiene such as washing hands, wearing masks, staying indoors, and so on, are not being followed, leaving the government with no option but to invoke section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to prohibit the 'assembly' of persons. In addition to this law, the government has also invoked section 188 of the India Penal Code (IPC) to ensure that every citizen follows the time-to-time directives of the union as well as the state governments to contain the further spread of coronavirus. This section penalises a person who disobeys the orders of a public authority and provides for a jail term up to a month along with a fine.

But apart from these two sections, the government has other hosts of legal provisions, within the IPC, which it can use as and when required to stop transmission of the virus.

According to advocate Ashish Satpute, the government can resort to these provisions, especially in wake of the instances wherein those suspected to be infected with coronavirus flee from hospitals where they are kept in isolation. There have also been instances wherein such patients, who are suspected to have been exposed to the deadly virus, have been caught in long-distance trains and later deboarded at nearest stations.

Apart from such incidents, one can see people continuously turning a deaf hear to appeals for 'social distancing' and still visiting public places for no 'specific' reason. Such conduct can be easily termed to be 'negligent', says advocate Satpute.

"The law is clear on such issues. Section 269 of the IPC deals with a negligent act, which is likely to spread the infection of a disease dangerous to life. It reads that whoever unlawfully or negligently does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life," Satpute pointed out.

"This section provides with imprisonment of either for a six months term or with fine or with both," Satpute highlighted.

Similarly, section 270 too can be useful for the government as it deals with a 'malignant act' likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life, says Satpute.

This section reads, "Whoever malignantly does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”

In addition to these laws, the government can take help of section 271 of the IPC that penalises those who disobey the quarantine rules. This law, Satpute highlights, can be specially used against those who are not complying with the travel advisory.

"With the help of all these laws, the government can make the wearing of masks mandatory and even order people to be in isolation," Satpute said.

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