Stepping up its fight against coronavirus, the government of Punjab published its revised guidelines on Monday, completely banning public meetings and limiting social gatherings to five attendees and weddings and other functions to 30, which was earlier 50. The government has also urged the police to register FIR against those who violate the curbing of public meetings.
In May, the central government had limited the number of people allowed to 50 for weddings and 20 at the funerals. Since then, these guidelines had been applied in Punjab, as in the other states.
The revised guidelines derived the day after Chief Minister of Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh declared the imposition of more stringent curbs in the wake of the increasing coronavirus cases in the state.
Punjab government issued a comprehensive notification that states that joint police force and civil administration teams should strictly enforce restrictions on social gatherings according to section 144 which has been imposed in all districts of Punjab, as well as marriages and social functions.
What is Section 144?
Section 144 of the 1973 Criminal Procedure Law (CrPC) authorizes the administrative magistrate of any state or region to issue an order prohibiting the gathering of four or more people in a region. According to the law, every member of this “illegal assembly” can be booked to engage in riots. Section 144 applies to vexatious or dangerous situations that may cause trouble or damage human life or property under certain circumstances. CrPC’s Section 144 usually prohibits public meetings.
In the past, 144 sections were used to impose restrictions to prevent protests that could lead to unrest or riots. In the situation of an emergency, the Executive Magistrate has been conferred an order to impose Section 144.
Section 144 also restricts the carrying of any type of weapon in the area where this section has been imposed and people may detain for violation of it. The maximum penalty for the violation of such acts is three years.
According to the order in this section, there must be no public activities, and all educational institutions should also remain closed, and during the period of this order, any form of public meeting or assembly will be completely prohibited.
In addition, obstructing law enforcement agencies from disseminating illegal assemblies is a punishable crime. Section 144 also permits the authorities to block Internet access.
144 CrPC prohibits the conduct of certain activities, actions, or events that can be carried out in the normal process. This is to ensure the maintenance of peace and tranquility in a region.
Duration of Section 144
The order under this section shall not be authoritative for more than two months, but the state government may prolong the period of validity for two months to a maximum of six months. If the situation is normal, it can be revoked at any time.
Difference between Section 144 and curfew
Section 144 forbids the gathering of four or more people in the apprehensive area, and during the curfew, citizens are commanded to stay indoors for a period of time. The government also imposed strict restrictions on traffic. Markets, offices, schools, and colleges remain closed under the curfew, and only basic services can be run according to prior notification.
The management of weddings’ hall, hotels, and commercial spaces will be held responsible in case of violation of the guidelines and they might be faced suspension of their licenses. They will have to certify that adequate provisions have been made for the ventilation of the interior spaces, the notification added.
Mandatory FIRs must be filed against those who violated the guidelines during public gatherings, which are now strictly forbidden, the statement further stated.
The state government also collaborated with IIT Chennai experts to intensify surveillance, using technology to identify the gatherings of the super-spreaders that led to the spread of the infection in the past, to guide future actions.
Wearing masks have been made mandatory in the offices/workplace/closed places.
The new guidelines also address the rigorous administration of the healthcare advisory on air conditioning and ventilation/air circulation.
Public dealing in offices can be reduced to address urgent and needs-based problems, according to the guidelines, which affirm that the recently approved online public complaint redress system by Cabinet must be widely popularized and used.
To ensure the most appropriate utilization of health infrastructures, asymptomatic, and mildly symptomatic people without comorbidity or vulnerability must be in the COVID care centers/ home isolation where applicable.
According to the guidelines, Beds in level 2 and 3 facilities will not be used to aid such patients. A person in a level 2 or 3 facility who no longer needs this facility should be referred by reverse referral way to a lower level treatment facility.
Deputy commissioners, SSPs, and police commissioners have urged to ensure that all hospitals must provide information on the availability of their beds and are not refusing the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
The government of Punjab has also decided on a hygiene process that will be undertaken by both local urban authorities and Panchayati Raj institutions on the basis of a campaign for the prevention of dengue / vector-borne disease during monsoon season.
According to the state health department, Punjab reported 234 new positive COVID cases and four deaths on Sunday, bringing its overall tally to 7,821. It includes 2,230 active cases, 5,392 discharges, and 199 deaths.
While appealing to people to obey all the curbs, Captain Amarinder Singh, CM of Punjab, had also advised all political parties to avoid any form of assembly and rally.
It is our mutual duty to save Punjab. Politics can wait,” he emphasized, underlining the significance of collective fighting by all against “the biggest menace facing humanity”. He also appended that he doesn’t want Punjab to go the way of Mumbai, Delhi, and Tamil Nadu.