COVID-19 norm violations are non-bailable offences, ensure police register FIRs: Karnataka HC

Pointing out that violation of COVID-19 norms notified under the provisions of the Karnataka Epidemic Diseases (KED) Act, 2020 are cognisable and non-bailable in nature, the High Court of Karnataka on Thursday directed the Director-General and Inspector General of Police to ensure that the police register First Information Reports (FIR) when instances of such violations are brought to their notice.

The Court also directed the DG&IGP to constitute a team of senior police officers to educate the police on effective enforcement of laws to prevent spread of COVID-19, and monitor the registration of FIRs and the investigation in cases of violations like not wearing masks, failure to maintain social distancing, and violation of norms for large congregations.

The DG&IGP has been directed to issue necessary directions/guidelines to every police officers for effective implementations of the provisions of the KED Act, 2020.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Suraj Govindaraj issued the directions while noticing that police are hesitant in registering FIRs against these violations and are taking the law lightly perhaps due to the provision in the law to compound these offence by way of collection of fine by authorised officers even after registration of the FIR. The Bench was hearing PIL petition filed by city-based Letzkit Foundation.

The Bench issued the directions after taking note of rapid increase in number of COVID-19 positive cases in the State and pointing out hesitation on the part of the police to register FIRs in cases of violations.

Unless the penal actions under the KED Act, 2020 and the regulations are enforced strictly the purpose of enacting these laws as a tool to the State authorities to prevent spread of epidemic diseases like COVID-19 cannot be achieved effectively, the Bench observed.

Pointing out that right to lead healthy life is guaranteed under the Article 21 of the Constitution, the Bench said that the State government must view violations of COVID-19 norms seriously as violation of these norms by person or group would violate right to healthy life of other citizens.

As prominent political and religious leaders, and celebrities will have to lead by example to other citizens, it is all the more necessary for the police to take strict action when this class of the society violation the norms, the Bench said while referring into instances in which police had registered FIRs against such leaders only after court’s intervention.

“We hasten to add that none should be spared for the violations,” the Bench observed.

On allegation that the Government relaxed norms on occupation of seats in movie theatres at the instances of a leading Kannada actor Puneet Rajkumar, the Bench hoped that the Government in future will not relax norms at the instances of a few individuals.

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