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The world is currently experiencing a pandemic and fighting to curb the spread of COVID-19. The Government announced nation-wide lockdown for 21 days, which later got extended. Further, certain relaxations were introduced, in effect from 20th April, 2020. People are not allowed to go outside of their home. There were certain restrictions imposed on movement and transportation. The lockdown mainly emphasizes on social distancing by restricting the movement of public from one place to another, in order to prevent community transmission of the virus.
As the entire nation is facing lockdown, all the transportation of non-essential services is being barred. However, the government introduced an e-pass system to serve the citizens who are in need by validating their purpose of travel and emergency. Due to the rapid spread of corona and notable increase in day to day cases, all the policemen and patrolling officers made it mandatory to carry an e-pass during their travel in order to ensure that no one breaks or dis-obey the curfew rules. To regulate the movement of goods and transportation of people, various state governments started issuing the ‘curfew passes’
The vehicle pass is a document issued by the State Government authority with proper identification and authentication. This issuance of vehicle pass is for the public official or the civilians who are involved in essential sectors including health care, police and security etc. To avoid any kind of restriction for the movement of their vehicle within the area, district or state during lockdown.
The need of e-pass emanated because of the lockdown which begin due to spread of nation-wide COVID-19. The people who were participating in supply of goods and were in exempted category for working in essential sectors across the state are provided with e-passes by State Government for their vehicles. E-pass is provided for the vehicle of an individual who is involved in essential services and is the sole mode for the vehicles to move from one territory to another. The absence of this pass restricts the movement of vehicle on any place. Authorities look into all the document provided before granting the e-pass to the people. The person who is approved by the State Government with an e-pass for providing essential services is only allowed for movement of their vehicle.
Criteria for issuing the passes
The world is going through the huge crisis due to which there is more responsibility on the people who work for the nation and its people welfare. The government of different states provides with their helpline number to clear the issues relating to COVID-19 and also help in case of any emergency. During lockdown, the people who provide with essential service to the public are permitted with e-pass. The people who are serving the public and are involved in production and distribution of essential goods during this lockdown are needed to apply with e-pass which after getting approved be used by person without any restriction. The use of these passes will be under the supervision of police.
The e-pass facility can be provided to selective people during this lockdown. If these people belong the essential sector serving the nation, they can be permitted with e-pass. The criteria for issuance of vehicle pass through e-pass are:
- Vehicles (car, bike, etc. for emergency purpose)
- Hospitals and other health care services
- Electricity and water department
- Government and bank employees
- Ration shops
- Police forces
- Fire administration
- Courier services
- Food department
- Communication and internet services
- Petrol pump
The employees of the above-mentioned categories are permitted to be issued with vehicle passes in order to make it easy for them to provide services essential to the nation.
During this COVID-19 lockdown, the vehicle pass through e-pass is mandatory for movement of vehicle for any emergency purpose or for use by public servants providing essential services. During this lockdown, Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code can be invoked against those who are not following the guidelines in this regard. The violation of any containment measure by any person will be liable be punished under provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 in addition to Section 188 of Indian Penal Code.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has instructed all the states and union territories to consider the driving licenses and other motor vehicle documents that are getting expired on February 01, 2020 and to make it valid till June 30, 2020. This extension is for the lockdown period, so that people should not face any difficulties in renewing the validity of the motor vehicles documents due to closure of the state-run transport offices. The documents under Motor Vehicle rules includes fitness, permits, registration, driving license and other relevant documents.
The efforts been taken by the government to provide hassle free services and transportation of essential goods during this lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 in India. The ministry has urged all state to implement the advisory in ‘latter and spirit’ in order to supply hassle free supplies of essential items across the country.
There are certain provisions, which required to be followed by every individual in this lockdown scenario, whether it related to person with vehicle pass or without vehicle pass but these provisions are essential in every aspect. Here, the person under exempted category with vehicle pass must keep these provisions in their list because violation of any of such will encourage punishment or penalty. They are:
- Article 51A: Article 51A of the Constitution of India is one of the fundamental duties incorporated by the 42nd Amendment in 1976. Fundamental duties are the duties which must be followed by the citizen to maintain harmony and peace. Along with abiding all the laws and directions issued by the state in public interest. The government has the right to provide us with appropriate direction in time of calamities and being a responsible citizen of the country, we should follow their orders. If citizens are not discharging their obligation towards the state in relation of fundamental duties, the state is entitled to register case against the individual under various provision of Indian Penal Code and more specifically under section 269 and 270 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- Section 269 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860: The Section 269 of the Indian Penal Code, whoever unlawfully or negligently does any act by which he knows that it will likely to spread infection of any disease dangerous to life shall be punished with the imprisonment of either description for a term of six months or with fine or with both.
- Section 270 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860: The Section 270 of the Indian Penal Code, whoever malignantly does any act by which he knows and have idea that it 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.
- Epidemic Disease Act, 1897: This Act provides for the prevention of the spread of Dangerous Epidemic Diseases. The Central Government is satisfied that there is threat with an outbreak of any Dangerous Epidemic Disease to spread, they provide with all preventive measures and prescribe regulation for the same. The violation of any such regulation under this act constitutes an offence under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860: This section provides that any disobedience to the order duly promulgated by public servant shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term, which may extend to six months or with fine, which may extend to one thousand rupees or with both.
Vehicle permits during lockdown 3.0
There are several measures imposed regarding movement and vehicle usage and its permit during lockdown during this lockdown 3.0. . They are:
- Interstate movement: Restrictions have been imposed on interstate movement. Interstate movement is allowed only for exempted category like medical emergency, goods transports, police officials, media, etc.
- Red Zone: The movement of individuals and vehicles is allowed only for permitted activities (exempted category). In case of two-wheelers, only one person allowed, while in case of four-wheelers, two people along with the driver are allowed.
- Orange Zone: Taxi and Cabs are permitted to resume their services with the condition that they can have one passenger along with the driver.
- Green Zone: During this 3.0 lockdown, in green zone, buses are also allowed but to operate, the capacity of passenger must be 50 percent i.e., half the actual capacity of a bus to load as per seats.
The policy of vehicle passes in respect of this vehicle e-pass are issued to the individuals who works under the exempted categories specified by the Central Government during this widespread outbreak of infectious disease COVID-19. The vehicle passes are issued in different state as per the different state rule. Its state authority discretionary power to decide which all categories they want to issue pass and which can work with the department ID card as a proof of exempted category.
- In Delhi, the Chief Minister, Arvind Kejiriwal decided to issue e-passes to ensure smooth movement of people involved in essential services but he also introduced the color code system for ensuring proper monitoring and record keeping.
- In Bengaluru, they have their different list for persons for whom e-pass can be passed or for whom only department ID card as a proof is enough for providing essential services to public.
- In Maharashtra, Police have issued passes for inter-district travel for essential services. Likewise, there are different states with their different guidelines for issuance of passes for movement of the individual in emergency cases and for essential services. The legal basis is concerned that is equal for every individual. Only with the permit from the State Government, some exemptions are provided for movement during the lockdown situation.
India has entered the third phase of nationwide coronavirus lockdown restricted the movement of every individual in the country as per Central Government instruction only exempted category employees who are involved in essential services are allowed for movement will their respective pass issued as a permit. As per the State Government guidelines, vehicle passes are being facilitated online for the individual who are involved in this essential services and emergency conditions. During lockdown Phase 3.0, which has been extended till 17th May, 2020, there are division of zones as per number of cases found positive.
The Ministry of Home Affairs issued detailed guidelines irrespective of zones as red, orange and green zones, which categorized the measures and usage of vehicle usage limit. To avoid any kind of disturbance, the Government issue laws and order with certain punishments and fines. These vehicle passes are issued not only to permit essential services to be provided but guidelines issued also takes proper care of social distancing to avoid any further spread. As, it limit the capacity of bus to hold 50% passengers, cabs with only one passenger etc. The driving license validity period has also been extended till June 30, 2020. Government is taking all safety measures to prevent the nation from the further spread of the virus, while also ensuring that certain exemption are given to the citizens for the smooth functioning of the nation.
Author: Aishwarya Singh from SRM School of Law, SRMIST, kattankulathur, Chennai
Editor: Priyanshu Grover from Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA, Uttar Pradesh.