Is negligent spreading of COVID-19 a crime?

All diseases are because of ignorance, and education is the treatment. Any amount of communication is not convincing some of the people to stay home and stay alert to prevent the spread of contagious coronavirus. They are either ignorant or negligent, though not deliberate. The irresponsibility if aggravates, becomes ‘recklessness’ which could be criminal. Can the government punish them?
According to law, the disease is ‘injury’, and whoever causes it intentionally is liable both in criminal law and civil law. One who breaks the norm of social distancing in these days of the pandemic of COVID-19, is injuring the community. The crime is called public wrong, where the individual and the society are considered as victims. The state on behalf of the society takes up the cause and prosecutes the culprit. Apart from this, the individual victim can simultaneously launch a civil litigation claiming the compensation for the damage caused to him by the person who has spread the contagious disease.
Malignant spreading of Covid-19
The IPC prescribed severe punishment for aggravated form of spreading the disease. Section 271 defines an offence which is malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life. It says: “Whoever malignantly does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both”.
A person being a carrier of Covid-19, knowingly mixing up with people will squarely attract this provision which can land him in jail for two years besides fine.
Disobedience to Quarantine Rule
Section 278 says: “Whoever voluntarily vitiates the atmosphere in any place so as to make it noxious to the health of persons in general dwelling or carrying on business in the neighbourhood or passing along a public way, shall be punished with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees”.
Bangalore police on March 22, formed 500 teams to trace and arrest 40 thousand stamped foreign returned passengers to check their status of home quarantine. The above provisions of IPC were used to regulate them. An FIR was lodged against singer Kanika Kapoor for her irresponsible mixing up with celebrities in functions not caring the quarantine regulations after the outbreak of corona virus, after she returned from London. Similarly, Tablighi Jamaat’s chief, Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, and other members of the group have been booked for violating government orders in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus after nearly a quarter of 39 coronavirus deaths in India were linked to this religious gathering of Islamic preachers at Basti Nizamuddin in New Delhi.
Role of Law Schools
The curriculum at Bennett University’s School of Law incorporates best practices in course content, teaching methodology, and research making our students ready to address issues of wide social relevance. Facilities such as the state-of-the-art library, Moot Court Hall, Legal Aid Cell and association with Cornell Law School, USA educate and train the future thought-leaders in the field of Law.
(The article is written by Dr M Sridhar Acharyulu, Dean, School of Law, Bennett University)

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