By Sanjeev Kumar Singh Chauhan
New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) The fear of pandemic has finally driven the Delhites to wear masks while stepping out of their homes.
During lockdown 1.0, beginning March 25, several thousand cases relating to ‘not wearing masks’ had been registered in Delhi. A report of the Delhi Police revealed that in the initial period of lockdown, over 200 cases were being registered daily against people for not wearing masks. However, the number dropped to 3 to 4 per 4 day during lockdown 4.0.
“It seems that residents have become more conscious about protecting themselves from being infected by coronavirus. Earlier they seemed to be less aware of the ground reality,” said Shalini Singh, Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi.
For violating various norms and regulations during the lockdown, including not wearing masks, harassing tenants, or offending norms of social distancing, lakhs of FIRs were registered under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Delhi Police Act.
As most of the offences were bailable, arrests were made only in a few hundred cases. As the number of Covid-19 cases swelled in the national capital, its residents seem to have become more aware about the new set of rules, especially wearing masks and adhering to social distancing norms.
During the entire lockdown period so far, an unprecedented surge was noticed in the number of FIRs registered. However, arrests were made only in some hundred cases. The sections under which maximum FIRs were registered are Section 188 of the IPC (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and Section 65-66 of Delhi Police Act (All persons shall be bound to comply with the reasonable directions given by a police officer).
The numbers jumped during the first phase of lockdown, while at present nominal cases are being registered as compared to the previous spike.
If we talk about Central Delhi, a total of 1,030 cases were registered till May 23 under Section 188 since the lockdown began. While on May 23, only seven cases were registered under this section.
On the other hand, 34,130 cases were registered under Section 65 of the Delhi Police Act. However, on May 23, only 114 cases were registered.
The number of cases has witnessed a significant decline. On this, West Zone Joint Commissioner of Police Shalini Singh said: “Actually, people were not aware of the norms initially. But now most people have come to know about them, hence they are themselves refraining from violating the norms.”
According to the data released by the Delhi Police on May 24, a total of 1,364 people were detained and released subsequently in 24 hours under Section 65 of Delhi Police Act. This number was between 3,000 and 4,000 during the initial days of the lockdown.
Also, cases registered for not wearing masks were only four in a day while during the first three phases of the lockdown, this number neared the 200-mark.
“Before the outbreak of the pandemic, police were using Section 188 against landlords who were not getting their tenants verified. During the lockdown, maximum cases were registered under this Section. Actually, Section 188 ensures the implementation of any special order by the government that has a provision of jail term from one to six months,” said Patiala House Court’s senior advocate Shailendra.
When asked why the ratio of arrests is very low, the advocate replied that this is a bailable section. However, the offender has to be present in the Magistrate’s court after issuance of notice and only if the allegation is proved, further action will be taken.
Significantly, just two days back, Delhi Police Commissioner S.N. Srivastava had asked his officials not to use Section 65 of DPA or use it minimally, so that the spread of coronavirus among police officers could be prevented.
(Sanjeev Kumar Singh Chauhan can be reached at [email protected])