New Delhi, Aug 21 (PTI) The AAP government Friday defended in the Delhi High Court its COVID-19 regulations empowering police officers of Sub-Inspector and above ranks to impose fines for violating quarantine norms, saying it was a special measure taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The Delhi government told a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan that fines under the COVID-19 regulations are not in the nature of punishments under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), rather they are preventive measures contemplated in accordance with the Epidemic Diseases (ED) Act of 1897.
The submission was made before the bench in an affidavit, filed through Delhi government standing counsel Ramesh Singh, which stated that under the ED Act the state is empowered to take such special measures to prevent the spread of epidemic diseases.
The affidavit was filed in response to a PIL challenging a provision in the regulations which empowers police officers of sub-inspector rank or above to impose fines on anyone violating the COVID-19 quarantine norms.
The plea by a lawyer, Sonia Rana, has contended that imposing fines amounts to handing down a punishment which can only be awarded by a judge, not a police officer.
Under the Delhi Epidemic Diseases (Management of COVID-19) Regulations of 2020, an authorised person is empowered to impose a fine of Rs 500 for the first time and a further fine of Rs 1,000 for repeated violation of quarantine rules -- not maintaining social distancing, not wearing masks, spitting in public places and consumption of tobacco products in public places.
The petition, filed through advocate Dhananjay Singh Sehrawat, has sought quashing of the provision in the regulations which empowers police officers to impose the fines.
Terming the petition as "misconceived", the Delhi government has contended that imposition of penalty or coercive act under the other enactments including the COVID-19 regulations cannot be treated as relatable to IPC merely because similar provisions are to be found in the IPC.
"Hence, it is denied that a police officer has been labelled as a 'judge' since these fines are not 'punishments' as provided in the IPC," the government has said.
It has also contended that the ED Act permits a state to enact regulations to prevent outbreak and spread of epidemic diseases and it does not say that a public hearing is required to be given before implementing provisions of such regulations.
It has further said that since the regulation was framed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, "in such circumstances the designation of authorised officers to execute and implement the legislative policy cannot be said to be excessive delegation".
The bench listed the matter for further hearing on September 28.