Time and again, there have been several instances where people have literally spat or misbehaved with others as a way of transmitting coronavirus onto them. The rising xenophobia was also becoming a problem as people from the northeast were targeted. The instance where a man spat on a Northeastern woman and called her “coronavirus” alarmed everyone.
Similarly, there has been a rise in the cases of violence and misbehavior where people are displacing their anger by intentionally spreading the virus to others.
As a step against this, the Uttar Pradesh Public Health and Epidemic Disease Control Ordinance, 2020, cleared by the Cabinet came out with a rule that if someone “intentionally” infects another person with a contagious disease, they will be punished with rigorous imprisonment for 2-5 years.
Moreover, if a patient ends up dying due to the intentional infection, then the punishment is life term imprisonment. Now there may be ambiguity surrounding what constitues “intentionally”.
The Chief Secretary R K Tiwari said the meaning of “intentionally here is the same as defined in legal terms”. Under the proposed law, the punishments are defined under different heads, including for “concealment” and “travel by public mode of transport”. The punishment for both these offences is imprisonment for 1-3 years and a fine of Rs 50,000-1 lakh.
On top of that, there is also a strict punishment in the ordinance for people who attack healthcare workers. “The idea is to provide protection to all the corona warriors working in the field,” said State Finance Minister Suresh Khanna.
People would be punished from the range of 6 months to 7 years. There will also be a fine ranging from 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh for assault or misbehaviour with health workers, paramedical staff, police personnel, sanitation workers or any corona warrior deployed by the government.
While states are slowly making laws to fight the malicious human behavior, the natural fix for it would come from within humans. While the law can only forcefully curb the intention, the longer and difficult route lies in introspecting and changing our mindset.