Those violating the coronavirus lockdown or obstructing officials should be sent to jail for one or two years, the government today told state governments, directing stern action under existing laws after reports of doctors or health staff being attacked.
Obstructing doctors, health workers or government staff can land the offender in jail for a year. If such an act leads to someone dying, then the jail term could be for two years.
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba has written to state governments to take tough action if there is any violation of rules.
Those making false claims for money can be jailed for two years.
A false alarm or causing panic may land a person in jail for a year.
The centre's directive followed disturbing visuals of health workers being attacked with stones and chased away in Indore in Madhya Pradesh. The doctors were visiting the area to screen residents after a coronavirus case was reported from there.
In a video from Karnataka, a community or ASHA health worker was manhandled at a neighborhood in Bengaluru where a person had tested COVID-19 positive.
In Hyderabad, two doctors at a hospital were manhandled after the death of a Covid19 patient on Wednesday. The attackers were the brothers of the person who died; they were also diagnosed with coronavirus.
States have been told that the lockdown guidelines put out on March 24 clearly mentioned that those violating the rules should face action under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and legal action under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, which involves imprisonment and fines.
India is nine days into the three-week lockdown ordered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break the chain of transmission of the highly contagious coronavirus, which spreads through person to person contact.
The country has 1,965 coronavirus cases, including 50 deaths. While it has been a challenge to enforce social distancing in various parts of the country, there have also been reports of doctors, nurses and other health staff tackling coronavirus cases being targeted and harassed.