After the government of India, relaxed lockdown norms for some factories to open and start functioning following a set of guidelines; Twitter and social media users have now started questioning that what happens if an employee contracts coronavirus; will the owner of the factory will be held responsible. The claim is that the MHA guidelines prescribe penal action against company directors and management if employees test positive for coronavirus.
In a Tweet, a veteran journalist has quoted a response from KIA, which was made after some officials attended a meeting held by the district administration, in a particular state in regards to the renewed guidelines for factories to operate amid the lockdown period.
In a question asked by KIA saying, "If any person is infected during working; who will be responsible", it was stated that "100 percent factory owner. FIR will be lodged. Factory will be sealed and all related people will be quarantined for 14 to 28 days."
Though this was completely based on the understanding of officials from the KIA but it did intrigue some Twitter users and they questioned that why was the Govt trying to shift the responsibility that it is supposed to hold during this pandemic.
People stated that why would someone open up a factory if the owner is likely to face criminal charges.
A Twitter user further stated that, "Absolutely. Also is it only in India that Covid has not just been stigmatised but also criminalised?"
Another one Tweeted, "Forget about any economic activity restarting. They've already destroyed the country socially and culturally, and now they're bent on totally destroying it economically."
When KIA officials asked that what will happen if SOPs are not followed, the administration replied that in case of non-compliance of SOPs, FIR will be lodged against the factory owner. The factory will be sealed and de-sealing will be done as per the department's norms.
How the MHA guidelines were misinterpreted
The fact, however, is that the MHA guidelines here were misinterpreted. Penalties under Disaster Management Act' 05 is applicable if offence occurs with consent, cognisance or negligence of the employer. Clauses in the guidelines clearly state that all industrial and commercial establishments, workplaces, offices, etc. shall put in place arrangements for implementations of SOP before starting functioning. All district magistrates shall strictly enforce the national COVID-19 directives as specified in the guidelines. Penalties prescribed shall be levied and collected from all persons and entities violating these directives.
Another annexure states that any person violating these lockdown measures will be liable to be proceeded against as per the provisions of Section(s) 51 to 60 of the DM Act 05', besides legal action under Section 188 of the IPC and other legal provisions as applicable.
Though the govt has given permission to open factories and function them following the new set of guidelines; it seems that people are still not aware of what the guidelines actually state and whether they will be able to adhere to the new set of rules amid lockdown.