Lockdown violators in India could face six months jail time, a fine, or both

The Centre has asked state governments to strictly enforce lockdowns and take legal action against those who violated the restrictions as cases of coronavirus jumped to 415 in the country on Monday.

The Centre and state governments had on Sunday decided to completely lock down 80 districts across the country where coronavirus cases have been reported till March 31. Most forms of public transport, including all passenger trains, metro services and inter-state buses, were also suspended till the end of this month.

The government’s tougher tone on the restrictions came soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to rue the fact that many people are still not taking the lockdown seriously. He also urged states to ensure that the directives are followed by people.

“Many people are still not taking the lockdown seriously. Please save yourself, save your family, follow the instructions seriously. I request state governments to ensure rules and laws are followed,” he said in a tweet in Hindi.

Senior government officials said there are provisions under the Indian Penal Code to take action against people disobeying lockdown ruled under the Epidemics Diseases Act of 1897.

Any person disobeying any regulation or order made under this Act shall be deemed to have committed an offence punishable under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, which can lead to a jail term of six months, a fine, or both.

Across India, 80 districts including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Bengaluru were placed on complete lockdown on Sunday, which means only essential services will be allowed.

Apart from the Centre’s orders, 13 states also announced complete lockdowns till Sunday. They were Maharashtra, Kerala, Haryana, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab, Delhi, Nagaland, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand and Rajasthan. On Monday, Himachal Pradesh became the 14th state to announce a lockdown.

Several states have also implemented partial shutdowns and imposed Section 144, which bans gatherings of more than four people.

The raft of state shutdown measures came as the country observed a 14-hour voluntary ‘Janata curfew’ on Sunday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi said would test the country’s ability to fight the pandemic. However, people were also seen travelling around in groups, hugging and celebrating in some parts after 5pm, despite prohibitory orders and advisories.

Some states have already taken action against those who have violated home quarantine after returning from abroad. There are 415 coronavirus cases in India, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Eight people have died. Maharashtra has the highest number of cases.

The global pandemic has forced lockdowns in 35 countries, disrupting lives, travel and businesses as governments scramble to shut borders and unleash hundreds of billions in emergency measures to avoid a widespread virus-fuelled economic meltdown. Over 300,000 infections have been confirmed worldwide.