Coronavirus in Maharashtra: If people flee quarantine, strict action will be taken, says state govt

Updated: Mar 20, 2020, 18:30 IST | Dharmendra Jore, Diwakar Sharma, Faizan Khan | Mumbai

There have been instances of people, especially travellers, who are advised compulsory quarantine at home or government facilities, escaping

BMC and the police have discussed the need of forced quarantine when people don't pay attention to their requests. Pic/ Anurag Ahire
BMC and the police have discussed the need of forced quarantine when people don't pay attention to their requests. Pic/ Anurag Ahire

In the wake of several people escaping Coronavirus quarantine facilities and increasing the risk of community transmission, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh has asked Mumbai police to take action against such people under the Epidemic Diseases Act, which has a provision for holding someone accountable of committing a criminal offence punishable under an IPC section.

Through a tweet on Thursday, Deshmukh said, "Following repeated instances of people fleeing Quarantine/Isolation, the Home Ministry is constrained to ask Maharashtra Police to act against such offenders endangering themselves & everyone else under the Epidemic Diseases Act."

There have been instances of people, especially travellers, who are advised compulsory quarantine at home or government facilities, escaping. Suspected patients in Nagpur, Panvel, Rahuri (Ahmednagar), Pune and Mumbai were found to be roaming free and travelling by train. The screening authorities have started stamping an identity mark on the left arm of such people, so that they can be traced and reported to the police.

Speaking to mid-day, Deshmukh said, "There are provisions in the Epidemic Diseases Act for enforcement and action. If people violate the law, the police will invoke the relevant sections."

Meanwhile, gearing up to take action against such offenders, Additional Director General (law and order), Maharashtra police, Rajneesh Seth, held a video-conference with 10 commissioners and a number of SPs to discuss some preventive steps and create awareness about COVID-19. He also spoke about how FIRs could be registered against people flouting the norms.

Requesting anonymity, a senior police officer said, "All the legalities related to who will be the complainant and what sections will be imposed were discussed. In such cases the in-charge of the isolation ward or the municipal commissioner concerned could be made the complainant to register an FIR. As of now, we are waiting for the modalities from the government."

As per the directives, if any person disobeys the regulations, action would be taken under the Epidemic Disease Act, which has provision for punishment of criminal offence committed under IPC Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant). Under the section, if such disobedience causes or tends to cause danger to human life, health or safety, the person shall be punished with imprisonment upto six months, or a fine upto R1,000 or both. A senior police officer said, "The offence is cognizable and an FIR can be lodged."

When asked about the same, Director General of State Police, Subodh Kumar Jaiswal, said, "Whatever necessary action needs to be taken in the purview of the legal provisions, will be taken."

Mumbai Joint Commissioner (law and order), Vinoy Choubey, said his teams were working in close coordination with the BMC teams. "We have already set up a mechanism based on which the police and civic officials are working together," he added.

According to sources, the BMC chief and police top brass have already met to discuss the situation and the need of forced quarantine/isolation when people don't heed to the requests for self-quarantine.

"We will first try and convince people to self-quarantine themselves. If they agree, we will take them to the medical facility concerned or to their respective homes. But if people are adamant, we will be forced to use provisions under the law to file cases," said an officer, requesting anonymity.

Another senior officer said, "All necessary directions have been given including for adequate deployment of police at quarantine facilities."

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