Jumping quarantine: Legal angle

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

In the present scenario where the country is in set to enter the 4th phase of lockdown due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, several individuals are found to be jumping quarantine and lockdown measures in the country. An act by a person or a group of people of escaping from the place of their isolation or quarantine due to them being suspected Covid-19 patients by the Government is known as quarantine jump. A realistic scenario of quarantine jump is about the 70 migrant workers who jump quarantine in Bihar.

Out of 150 migrant workers quarantined, 70 migrant workers jump quarantine Centre in Nawada district. This resulted in an emerging worry to the Government of Bihar. They were all quarantined in Aadharsh International School, Nawada district. As per the recent report, these migrants had jumped quarantine as there were not provided with proper food and lacked facilities.

Several migrants are being uncooperative with the authorities over food and other facilities. Although the government is trying to do its best to ensure the safety of all, there is a need to instill a confidence for the same amongst migrants and workers who are left without food and shelter. There is also a need to ensure that people are made aware that they should follow quarantine protocols and not violate because it would invite dangers to their own selves as well as to others in the society.

Dangers associated with jumping quarantine

The world health organization on March 2020, announced a serious health emergency. They advised to close all the international and national borders as an effective means of handling the pandemic. The Government of each state of every country ordered every individual to stay at home quarantined. The affected parties of Covid-19 were shifted to isolation wards for treatment. The parties who had a past history of abroad travel recently or those who have been in contact with Covid-19 patients were also been strictly quarantined and isolated for observation.

The Governments across the globe felt that quarantine at home, may reduce the spread of Covid-19. In spite of such a serious pandemic few people are very lethargic by jumping quarantine. Below are few of the situations and examples of dangers associated with jumping quarantine:-

  • When a person, who has been tested Covid -19 positive jumps quarantine, may come in contact with another person and such a person may come in contact with another person, by doing so the spread of this virus will increase day by day.
  • There are also cases, wherein people recover from the Covid-19 and the virus also relapses for them again. In such a case, even though they have recovered from Covid-19, at least for a month or two they much be quarantined and observed before they are being discharged.
  • In the month of March 2020, there was an Indian couple who had gone to Switzerland for their honeymoon. When they came back to India (Bengaluru), the couples were tested for Covid-19. The report said that the man was tested positive and now both the man and women were supposed to be isolated for treatment and observation. The women escaped from quarantine and roamed in Bengaluru. Due to her act, she has spread the Covid-19 virus to many people.
  • In the month of April 2020, in Dubai, there was a man who was tested positive of Covid-19 escaped from quarantine just to see his girl friend. The result of his act was the girl as well as her family were been isolated for observation. Therefore, when a person comes in contact with another person, they jeopardize the stake of many people’s health.
  • In the month of May 2020, there was a rush and social cluster among people in Chennai (Koyembedu) to buy essentials. This social cluster resulted in a greater number of Covid-19 cases in a single day.

If people keep escaping from their quarantine and not following social distancing, the number of Covid-19 cases will increase, eventually there will be a lack of doctors to treat the patients, there will be lack of places to use as wards, and the death rate will keep increasing in the world. This will also affect the economy of a country at a great level.

Legal sanctions taken against quarantine jump

Many of the citizens are not taking the lock-down very seriously. In many places, we can still witness, so many people are clustering in groups. In order to avoid this situation, the Government has imposed strict rules and regulations to be followed by the public. Any person who opposes such rules will face the consequences for their act through penalty and imprisonment. Legal sanctions taken against quarantine jump by the Government are:

  • The Epidemic Disease Act, 1897:  Section 3 of the Act throws light on the penalty that can be attracted for potential violations. As per this provision, the punishment is attracted when a person disobeys any regulation or order made under the Act. The quantum of punishment is attributed to Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  • Indian Penal Code, 1860: Section 188 of IPC prescribes two different punishments based on the gravity of the disobedience. Firstly, if the disobedience causes or tends to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed, then the quantum of punishment shall be simple imprisonment with a term extendable up to 1 month or a fine of an amount up to 200 rupees, or both. Secondly, Section 188 deals with the kind of disobedience that is most likely to take place during these times like disobedience which occur danger to the human life, health ,safety and cause or tends to cause riot will be punished with an imprisonment term up to 6 months or a fine up to 1,000 rupees or both.

Further, Section 269 covering negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life, Section 270 covering malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life, Section 271 covering disobedience of quarantine. The penalties for these offences are imprisonment extendable up to 6 months or fine or both , imprisonment extendable up to 2 years or fine or both and imprisonment extendable up to 6 months or fine or both, respectively.

  • The Disaster Management, 2005: Section 51 has two aspects Firstly, it is attracted by the persons who leave their homes to pursue non-essential work.
  •  Condition: Whoever, without reasonable cause (a) obstructs any officer or employer (b) refuses to comply with any direction.
  • Punishment: Imprisonment of a term upto 1 year or fine (not prescribed under the provision) or both.

Further, the latter part of Section 51, in present conditions, is attracted by persons who are tested positive for the Coronavirus but run away from quarantine.

  1. Condition: Whoever, without reasonable cause (a) obstructs any officer or employer (b) refuses to comply with any direction causing loss of lives or imminent danger thereof.
  2. Punishment: Imprisonment of a term upto 2 years.

Section 54 of the section is attracted in present conditions by persons who create or forward fake news and information through social media platforms.

  1. Condition: Whoever makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude leading to panic.
  2. Punishment: Imprisonment of a term up to 1 year or fine (not prescribed under the provision).

Recent developments

  • The Government of India until May 12, 2020 has collected around Rs.2 crores of penalty amount from the public because of quarantine jump and few people are being imprisoned due to the quarantine jump.
  •  Due to this lock-down, our Indian economy is crashing, in order to avoid this; the Government of India has announced relaxation time from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm in order to allow people to work, provided social distancing is still maintained.
  • On May 11th, 2020, the doctors could recover most of the COVID-19 patients through a combination of Ayurvedic medicines and scientific medicines in India.
  •  On a video conference held on 11th May 2020 by the Government officials, our Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, stated that we need to now focus on two aspects. Firstly, to make sure that the Covid-19 does not spread to rural areas, secondly to focus on the growth of economy development.
  • The Government of India has decided to close International gates until June 2020.
  • The Indian railways will resume from May 12th, 2020. The passenger train service of first two trains departed from New Delhi.
  • Construction work has been resumed, on a condition of social distancing among the workers.
  • Many schools and colleges have been converted to isolation wards to treat Covid-19 patients.
  • Italy medical researchers claim to discover vaccine for Covid-19. They stated that the vaccine will be tested on human beings after summer.
  • The Union Health Minister, Harsha Vardhan on 12th may 2020, stated that India will be self-reliant in producing RT-PCR and antibody testing kits by May- end which will enable it to conduct one lakh tests a day.
  • Many of the police officers have been tested positive of Covid-19 in India. According to the recent reports, a 55 year old central reserve police force personnel died on 12th may 2020 due to corona virus infection.
  • The Health minister stated that the recovery rate improves to 23.3% on May 12th 2020.
  • The Union Government on May 12th 2020 said that the plasma therapy was still in experimental stage, there was not enough evidence yet to claim that it could be used to cure covid-19 patients.
  • On May 12th 2020, the Government of India has announced a package of Rs.20, 00,000cr to meet the crises due to Covid-19 and to boost the Indian economy.

Critical analysis

According to my observations till date, India is doing a great work of handling the Covid-19 situation. Compared to other countries, the recovery rate in our country is much higher than the other countries. Hats off to the doctors, nurses, police officials who work day and night to treat the Covid-19 patients and to regulate people from not disobeying the lock-down rules.

In spite of such a pandemic situation, the Government of India are taking effective measures in making sure that the economy does not result in a downfall. The Government makes sure that below poverty line people are not left in hunger. They provide food to homeless people and provide them with masks. The Government also manages to provide shelter to homeless people in the country. The homeless people are also tested for Covid-19.

It is very sad to say that even though the Government is taking possible measures to control the spread of Covid-19, there are people who no being very cooperative with the government. Some people are still not aware of the serious implications of quarantine jump. People who are isolated for observation and tested positive of Covid-19 must be happy that they are been treated and not left untreated by the doctors. It is high time every one of us must start appreciating the work done by the police officers, doctors and nurses rather than expecting luxury.

Conclusion

Despite all the efforts taken by the Government, there are still people out there who do not understand the seriousness of the pandemic and step outside or jump quarantine and spread the virus to other people. Even though strict rules are being regulated by law, few people are lethargic about the pandemic. Only if “self realization” is developed in the minds of the people, they would stop throwing tantrums, complaining about lack of facilities and no proper food, escaping from quarantine, not abiding by the law. India can quickly recover from such a pandemic situation.

Author: Sahanaa Sudhakar from VIT Law School (Chennai).

Editor: Priyanshu Grover from Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA, Uttar Pradesh.

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