What are the Penalties for Violating the Coronavirus Lockdown?
The whole country is now under lockdown under the Disaster Management Act.
The whole country is now under lockdown under the Disaster Management Act.(Photo: PTI)

What are the Penalties for Violating the Coronavirus Lockdown?

On Tuesday, 24 March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the entire country would be going into lockdown to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis for the next 21 days.

The lockdown has been put in place using an order under the Disaster Management Act 2005.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has issued directions and guidelines to the Centre, as well as all State/Union Territory governments to take effective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in India.

Following the NDMA directions, the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued guidelines to the Centre/State/UT governments with directions to strictly implement these. These guidelines have listed out the penalties for violation of the lockdown, as per the Disaster Management Act – which also include spreading fake news about the coronavirus pandemic.

The FAQs below will help you understand what actions can be penalised and what the punishment for this would be.

Also Read : ‘India on Lockdown From Midnight’: PM Modi’s Address on COVID-19

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Can the police throw me in jail if they claim I am violating the lockdown?

No. While there are penalties under the Disaster Management Act for violations of any orders passed by the relevant authorities – which include up to two years of jail time – these punishments can only be imposed after conviction by a court.

The police could detain someone they thought was violating a specific order relating to the lockdown, like a curfew order, depending on what that order says. But they wouldn’t have the right to arrest you and keep you in jail for that, as all these offences are bailable – unless of course you refuse to comply with their directions and pose a threat to public order, like the ‘godwoman’ in UP on the first day of the lockdown who threatened police with a sword.

They would also not be able to file an FIR against you for an offence under the Disaster Management Act on the spot, as this would require a formal complaint made through the NDMA.

NOTE: In addition to these FAQs, you can find our summaries and the full text of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Guidelines, including what shops will be open and what essential services will continue to function, here.

Offences and Penalties Under Disaster Management Act

Sections 51-60 of the Disaster Management Act set out the offences and penalties under it, which would apply to violations of the lockdown order.

Is it illegal to go outside my house during the lockdown?

You can go outside your house if you are going to buy some essential goods, or you are going to work where you are involved in providing an essential service.

If not, you could be found to be guilty of an offence under Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act (Obstruction).

You commit this offence if you obstruct a government servant from carrying out their duties, or refuse to comply with any directions issued by the Centre/State governments or the NDMA.

Any violation of the guidelines, and the orders by State Governments/local administration to implement them, including going to a place of worship, organising a social event, etc, will all be considered an offence under this.

PENALTY UPON CONVICTION:

Up to 1 year’s imprisonment + fine. If your actions lead to loss of lives, then up to 2 years’ imprisonment + fine.

Can someone be punished for spreading fake news about the coronavirus pandemic?

If you make or circulate a false alarm or warning about the disaster, or its severity, leading to panic, this is an offence under Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act (False Warnings or Alarms).

PENALTY UPON CONVICTION:

Up to 1 year’s imprisonment or fine.

What other false information can be penalised?

It is illegal to make a claim (whether on social media, in person, or in writing) that you know is false, so that you can obtain relief, assistance, repair or some other benefit from the Centre/state governments or the NDMA.

This is an offence under Section 52 of the Disaster Management Act (False Claim for Benefits).

PENALTY UPON CONVICTION:

Up to 2 years’ imprisonment + fine.

Would selling goods on the black market be a punishable offence?

If  someone misappropriates any money or materials meant for relief efforts for their own use, or sell them in black, this is an offence under Section 53 of the Disaster Management Act (Misappropriation of Money or Materials).

PENALTY UPON CONVICTION:

Up to 2 years’ imprisonment + fine.

Can a police or other government officer be penalised for not doing their job, or doing the job incorrectly?

If a government officer who has been instructed to perform some duties relating to the lockdown refuses to do them, or withdraws from performing his duties without taking permission, this is an offence under Section 56 of the Disaster Management Act.

PENALTY UPON CONVICTION:

Up to 1 year’s imprisonment or fine.

Can I be asked to provide the NDMA or the government with my own property to help in dealing with the pandemic? If yes, what would happen if I refuse?

The Disaster Management Act allows the NDMA to requisition any resources, vehicles or buildings it needs for carrying out its work in response to the disaster in question.

If you fail to comply with such a requisition order, then you commit an offence under Section 57 of the Disaster Management Act.

PENALTY UPON CONVICTION:

Up to 1 year’s imprisonment + fine.

There are special provisions for when these offences are committed by government departments and companies.

Also Read : COVID-19: 21-Day Nationwide Lockdown, Rs 15,000 Cr Allotted

Section 188 of IPC

Any violation of the lockdown can also be punished under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code. This provision punishes any person who disobeys an order by a public servant to abstain from an act, or deal with their property in a way.

You will need to find out what orders relating to the lockdown have been issued by your State Government and District Magistrate – for instance, curfew orders – to know what specifically to avoid.

PENALTY UPON CONVICTION:

  • Up to 1 month’s imprisonment + fine of Rs 200.
  • If the disobedience causes danger to human life, health or safety: Up to 6 months’ imprisonment + fine of Rs 1,000.

We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated.

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