Mumbai, March 17 (IANS) Invoking the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, the Maharashtra government has warned that any person/institution/organisation indulging in propagating fake messages on coronavirus will be liable for punishment.
In a five-page notification on Saturday, the government has said that use of any print, electronic or social media for dissemination of any information regarding Covid-19 without ascertaining facts and prior clearance of the concerned authorities, “will be treated as a punishable offence”.
The authorities include top officials like Commissioner, Health Services, Director, Health Services, Director, Medical Education & Research, or the District Collectors.
Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that this was necessitated due to a lot of rumours circulating on various media networks on coronavirus which needed to be arrested to avoid panic among the people.
“For instance, there are messages claiming different types of cures available for Covid-19. But, as of now, there is no such cure available for the disease anywhere in the world,” he pointed out.
Additionally, the government has warned that those who attempt to evade home quarantine would be forcibly quarantined in the government-run isolation facilities, as per the March 14 notification issued through state Principal Secretary Pradeep Vyas.
Any such person who refuses to abide by the orders of the concerned officer/s to go into quarantine would be liable for criminal punishment under Section 188 of Indian Penal Code. The same would be applicable to any institution/organisations found violating the procedures under the laws.
The notification states that all government departments/organisations” staff shall be at the disposal of the Collector/Municipal Commissioner or other officers of the concerned areas for discharging containment duties, and if needed they are empowered to requisition the services of any other person.
Once Covid-19 is reported from a particular area, the authorities will take a series of actions like sealing the geographical locality, barring entry-exit of population from that area, restricting vehicular movements, closing all public amenities like schools, colleges, malls, etc, initiating active/passive surveillance of Covid-19 cases, isolating the suspects and their contacts, taking over any government/private building to serve as a ”quarantine facility” and any other measures as required for containment of the disease.