Coronavirus, Karnataka High court
Coronavirus, Karnataka High court
Litigation News

Take action against political leaders for breaching social distancing norms: Karnataka HC

The Court observed that if action is not taken against political leaders for violating social distancing norms, it would send wrong signals.

Rintu Mariam Biju

From setting up of a grievance redressal mechanism to taking stern action against political leaders for breach of social distancing norms, the Karnataka High Court today passed a set interim directions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Court was dealing with a plea alleging that the National Directives for COVID-19 Management and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), part of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines, were not being followed in the state of Karnataka.

The interim directions issued by the Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Nataraj Rangaswamy read as follows:

Grievance Redressal Mechanism

  • Apart from availability of telephone number 100, the state government is directed to create a grievance redressal mechanism that will enable the citizens to lodge complaints about violations through various methods such as email, WhatsApp, SMS, etc. It will even facilitate the transmission of photographs of such violations.

  • State to ensure that the complaints reach the authorities who are under obligation to take action for such violations. The grievance redressal mechanism shall be set up within a period of one week.

  • State to give wide publicity to the grievance redressal mechanism so that large number of citizens may take recourse to the same.

Complaints received by Citizens

  • It is the duty of the state government and the all authorities under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DM Act) to take immediate action as and when complaints are received from citizens.

  • State to ensure that criminal law is set in motion in case of violations under Section 51 and 54 of the DM Act and Section 188 of Indian Penal Code along with other relevant penal provisions.

Action against Political leaders

  • As material has been placed on record showing large scale violations of social distancing norms by political figures and elected representatives, it is necessary for the state and all authorities under the DM Act to take strict action against this class of the society.

  • If action is not taken against them it, then it will send wrong signals.

Officers to collect spot fines

  • The state government shall take necessary steps to authorize other district officers under the DM Act to take penal action of collecting spot fines in different parts of the state within one week.

  • Only if large number of officers are authorized to collect fines can social distancing be implemented effectively.

Number of meetings conducted

  • Th State Executive Committee and the state authority shall issue necessary directions to all the District Authorities to exercise their powers under Section 30 and 34 under the DM Act.

  • State to place on record the number of meetings of the State Executive Committee and state authorities that have been held since March 25. The data is to be placed on record in the form of a tabular statement within 2 weeks.

While issuing these directions, the Court specifically noted that maximum implementation of the SOPs issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) as well as the state government is the need of the hour, as COVID-19 cases were on a rapid rise.

"During last few days, cases of coronavirus in the city is multiplying very fast. Yesterday, 4 areas in the capital city of Bengaluru have been subjected to complete lockdown for a period of 15 days. Considering the manner in which the pandemic is spreading in some districts in the state, very strict implementation of various directions is called for in the State."

Further, the Court observed that the 4 SOPs issued by MoHFW on June 4 are part of the Guidelines issued by the MHA on May 30.

Pertaining to the SOPs issued by the state, the Court added that as they were issued by the State Executive Committee in exercise of powers under Section 24 of the DM Act, they were legally enforceable.

After passing the aforesaid directions, the Bench also granted liberty to the petitioners to approach the Court by way of interim application if any breach of these directions is noticed.

The matter will be next heard on July 13.

Last week, the Karnataka High Court had asked the state government to produce the SOPs issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DM Act) for curbing the COVID-19 pandemic.

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