HC quashes FIR against man for COVID-19 rule violation
The Delhi High Court has quashed an FIR registered against a man for allegedly violating COVID-19 guidelines after his arrival from France in February 2020, noting that he cannot be punished for any alleged violation retrospectively.
Justice Mukta Gupta said the man had arrived in India on February 5, 2020, well before the guidelines came into effect on February 15.
“The fact that once the guidelines issued on March 24, 2020, were applicable for people entering India on or after February 15, 2020, the same could not have been given further retrospective operation for the petitioner [man] who had arrived in the country on February5, 2020. Therefore, the petitioner cannot be subjected to the prosecution for the offences,” the court ruled.
“This court is of the considered view that the very genesis of the prosecution case against the petitioner is faulted,” Justice Gupta added.
The High Court quashed the FIR registered at Madhu Vihar police station here under various sections of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897. As per the man, he left India for France on October 19, 2019, and returned back to India on February 5, 2020, at which time there was no orders directing mandatory institutional or home quarantine in force.
The Centre on March 12, 2020, issued guidelines in the wake of COVID-19 situation asking people to follow mandatory quarantine of 15 days for those who had travelled to and from China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany.
On March 14, 2020, a person representing to be from Health Department visited the residential premises of the man and asked about his travel plans. The man said he had no symptoms of COVID-19. Subsequently, on April 7, 2020, the FIR was registered against him for allegedly failing to keep himself in home quarantine.
To track his movement, the call details record of his mobile phone was taken out and it was noticed that he violated the condition of home quarantine, visiting various places without informing the competent authority.
The High Court highlighted that though the chargesheet claimed the man violated the quarantine order dated March 16, 2020, which was in force till March 30, 2020, the guidelines were applicable to the people who had come on or after February 15, 2020.
The man did not fall in that category having entered India on February 5, 2020, the court observed.