To

Shri A K Bhalla

Union Home Secretary

Dear Shri Bhalla,

It is unfortunate that we have not been able to contain the COVID virus spread and many States including the capital city of Delhi are witnessing an unusual spurt in virus cases of different mutants, some potentially dangerous. Your Ministry and several States have rightly tightened the COVID norms by issuing directions under the Disaster Management Act. In some States, the available hospital infrastructure is unable to handle the second wave of the virus.

While there may be several factors contributing to this situation, there is a feeling expressed by experts that observing the Covid norms including wearing of masks, maintaining social distancing etc. are the most effective way to contain the virus spread, pending the impact of vaccination drive being felt all around. Despite the best efforts, the proportion of the population so far covered by vaccination is marginal and it is likely to to take several months before a significant proportion of the population can be covered by vaccination.

In many States, on-the-spot penalties are being imposed on citizens found to be not wearing masks. The penalties in some States are as high as Rs 2,000.

On the other hand, senior political leaders are preaching the citizens the necessity of complying with the COVID norms but, it is they who seem to be callous when it comes to encouraging huge rallies in connection with the elections under way in several States. To win elections at any cost, those very same political leaders who give ready sermons to the people on observance of the Covid norms, do not seem to have any hesitation whatsoever in being directly instrumental in encouraging huge political rallies where it is impossible for the people to observe social distancing. In a way, each election rally in this country can be a Covid super spreader and it will surely endanger the lives of those who attend the rallies and those who come in contact with them.

Are these political leaders, who include the highest in the country, not directly responsible for organising those rallies and abetting outright violation of the COVID norms? Apparently, to win an election for them is more important than valuing human life! While an ordinary citizen is forced to pay huge fines for violating the COVID norms, I do not see any valid reason as to why those political leaders and their aides not be treated likewise. More important is that they are not just violators of the Covid norms but they are also abettors of the serious offence of endangering the lives of thousands of people.

It is not just election rallies but visits to religious places along with huge processions of supporters that these political leaders are engaged in with a view to polarise the society on religious lines and secure their votes in a highly unethical manner. In the process, such visits are also likely to become COVID super spreaders.

I have extracted below Sections 269 & 270 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which are relevant to this.

269. Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life.—Whoever unlawfully or negligently does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six month

270 Malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life.—Whoever malignantly does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason the believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both”

There are other provisions of the IPC relating to acts of criminal negligence that apply to this.

Since ours is a democracy based on the rule of law and all citizens should be treated equally, I feel that your Ministry will be failing in its responsibility if it does not take immediate steps to invoke the penal provisions of the Disaster Management Act and the different Sections of the IPC and direct the concerned authorities to prosecute both the leaders individually and the political parties collectively. This is the least that your Ministry owes to the ordinary citizen of India who is at the receiving end of the COVID crisis.

Since these offences are being committed as a part of the electioneering process, the Election Commission of India (ECI) should also step in and make sure that the electoral process in itself does not become a trigger for the worsening of the COVID crisis. I am marking a copy of this letter to the ECI for appropriate action.

Regards,

Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma, Former Secretary to GOI, Visakhapatnam


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