Police jump the gun in fight against Covid-19

Summary on fines is with cabinet for approval

Rameez Khan June 06, 2020

LAHORE: As the fines for violators of coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs) proposed by the health department are yet to be approved by the cabinet, police, on the other hand, imposed fines on their own accord, without any written approval from the authorities, The Express Tribune has learnt.

The health department proposed the provincial cabinet on June 4, to impose fine of Rs500 on people not wearing masks, it has proposed to impose fine of Rs500 to Rs2,000 on people unnecessary movement during the lockdown, a fine between Rs2,000 to 10,000 on people violating home quarantine guidelines, fines of Rs5,000 to 10,000 for engaging in prohibited activities and Rs5,000 to Rs10,000 fines for violating social distancing SOPs by public transport.

Furthermore, the health department has proposed to the cabinet in the same presentation that existing legislation requires the grant of magisterial powers to officers of the district administration. The home department has already moved a request to the LHC for grant of magisterial powers on request of the PDMA, however, certain apprehensions exist.

The home department can subsequently grant magisterial powers to ACs and ADCs who can then impose various fines under the ordinance.

A first offence under Section 17 is punishable imprisonment for a term not exceeding two months or a fine not exceeding Rs50,000 or both, however, offences are non-cognizable.

Provincial Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid said the proposal was under consideration. She said they were doing strict monitoring of the situation and if need be, the provincial cabinet would take up this proposal for approval in another four to five days.

Surprisingly as the government was considering to officially impose fines on violators of SOPs, Lahore police imposed fines on a motorist for not wearing a mask, after it was reported that provincial cabinet has accorded the aforesaid approval.

City Traffic Police Officer Syed Hamad Raza also briefed the media about the issuance of challans to a motorist not wearing a mask.

When asked about the notification for the imposition of challans, Dr Yasmin Rashid said this was over violation of guidelines or SOPs issued by the health department so there was no need for any new notification.

The health department official said they have not issued any notification for challans to police and generic guidelines cannot be assumed as bases for challan without any prior notification. The official indicated that the home department also has the power to issue notification, so they might have issued a notification in this regard.

A senior official working in the Home Department said that no such notification has been issued by the Home Department. He further said police have no authority to issue such notification on its own. He went on to say that even if they had decided to proceed with it, this was no way to get to the fining regime implemented. Before a mass awareness drive, how could they impose such fines, he remarked. The source in commissioner officer also clarified that no such notification was issued from DC Lahore.

Interestingly, PRO to CCPO Lahore Arif claimed that since a summary of fines has been moved in the provincial assembly, they have imposed fines. When asked about the notification, he said the summary moved in assembly was the legal justification for the fine.

By evening, police had already issued 1,300 challans to the motorist for not wearing masks.

The CTO Lahore was not available for comments despite several attempts.

Once confronted with the facts, the PRO to CCPO Lahore then claimed that a meeting was held between authority concerned and the health department in which this was approved. The same has been already denied by the health department.

Before Lahore, Faisalabad police on Thursday had also taken matters in their own hands, by physically punishing bikers and Qinchi rickshaw and rickshaw drivers for not wearing masks.

They were made to stand with faces towards the wall, they were roughed up and since that even did not satisfy the appetite of district and police authority, their tyres were deflated.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2020.

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