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Delhi HC issues notice on a plea against Police fines for COVID violation

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New Delhi: The Delhi HC today issued a notice in a plea seeking quashing provision empowering police officers of sub inspector rank or above to impose fines on anyone violating the Delhi Epidemic Diseases (Management of COVID19) Regulations, 2020.

A divisional bench of the Delhi High Court comprising Chief Justice Mr. D.N. Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan, while hearing the matter through video conferencing noted that “…it was needed.”

While the counsel appearing for the petitioner tried to submit something before the court with regards to admission of the matter, the Chief Justice stopped the counsel by saying that “we have read the papers, it is needed.”

The Chief Justice, while addressing the petitioner’s counsel, further added: “Your drafting is so good that we have issued the notice.”

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The Public Interest Litigation filed by Ms. Sonia Rana stated that “…as per section as per section 53 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Fine is a punishment. It is established that punishment can only be awarded by a judge and not by a police officer, hence the said notification is against the principles of natural justice and will be violative of the principle of Audi Alteram Partem which is a principle of fundamental justice as an accused person would not be able to justify his part.”

On 13th June 2020, guidelines were issued by Delhi Disaster Management Authority, had issued The Delhi Epidemic Diseases, (Management of COVID-19) Regulations, 2020 through a notification. As per Regulation 3(g) of the said regulation issued by the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, officers of the rank of Sub Inspector and above of Delhi Police have been authorized and empowered to impose a fine of Rs.500 for the first time and a further fine of Rs. 1000/- for the repeated offence, respectively for violating the directives/guidelines pertaining to the following:-

  • Observation of quarantine rules.
  • Maintaining of social distancing.
  • Wearing of Face mask/cover in all public places/workplaces.
  • Prohibition of spitting in public places.
  • Prohibition on consumption of paan, gutka, tobacco etc in public places.

The petition has stated that as per section as per section 53 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, fine is a punishment. It is established that punishment can only be awarded by a judge and not by a police officer; hence the said notification is against the principles of natural justice and will be violative of principle of Audi Alteram Partem which is a principle of fundamental justice as accused person would not be able to justify his part.

Also, the Regulations are Secondary Legislation and are been formulated under the powers conferred under Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 which is a primary legislation, and hence sub-delegation of secondary legislation shall not be permitted.

According to the petitioner, Punishment can only be awarded by a Judge and in the present case where a police officer has been labelled as a judge by the present regulation, punishment will be awarded by a police officer who is a complainant and is an investigation officer himself which is against the principles of natural justice.

The petition has been filed Advocate Dhananjay Singh Sehrawat on behalf of the petitioner Sonia Rana.

–  India Legal Bureau

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