The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday took a serious note of people not following social-distancing guidelines against the COVID-19 pandemic and asked the UP government to consider slapping jail terms and raising fines on them.
It also asked the government to chalk out a plan to implement the guidelines in “letter and spirit”.
The court’s observations for stricter measures come amid increasing COVID-19 cases in the state and the government deciding to implement a weekend lockdown in public places to contain the spread of the highly contagious disease.
On Tuesday, Uttar Pradesh reported 28 deaths and 1,594 cases of COVID-19. The overall death count has risen to 983 in the state and the caseload was nearing 40,000.
Hearing a PIL over the coronavirus situation, Justices Siddharth Verma and Ajit Kumar said they would “not hesitate in suggesting that incarceration and high fines be thought of” to ensure implementation of the guidelines for social-distancing.
“We cannot understand why the Uttar Pradesh Epidemic Disease Covid-19 Regulations, 2020, is not being implemented properly which clearly envisages action under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code. Also, we cannot understand why Section 144 of the CrPC, which we are told is in force, is not being used.”
The IPC Section 188 relates to disobedience of an order by a public servant, and it stipulates imprisonment up to one month and fine, or both. A person violating CrPC Section 144 is liable for punishment up to three years in jail.
Additional Advocate General Manish Goyal, appearing for the state government at the hearing, said they would be having a high-level meeting to discuss ways to maintain physical distancing and ensure people wear masks.
“This exercise will have to be undertaken compulsorily as we find that the Covid-19 infection is still there and that the people of our state are somehow not getting sensitive to the concept of physical distancing,” Mr Goyal submitted to the court.