Penalties listed in lockdown guidelines applicable to only owners who are negligent: Government

NEW DELHI: The penalties, listed in the April 15 guidelines of the home ministry on partial resumption of work in factories in rural areas, are applicable to employers only if an offence occurs with the consent, cognisance or negligence of the owner, the government clarified on Wednesday.

The clarification follows “misinterpretation” by some media reports which have “claimed” that the guidelines of the ministry have prescribed penal actions against company directors and management if employees test positive for COVID-19 disease, a home ministry spokesperson said in a tweet.

“#FactCheck. Claim: MHA (ministry of home affairs) Guidelines prescribe penal action against company directors & management, if employees test positive for #COVID-19. Fact: MHA Guidelines misinterpreted. Penalties under DM (disaster management) Act 2005 applicable if offence occurs with consent, cognisance or negligence of employer,” it said.

The Press Information Bureau (PIB) of the Union government too in a tweet said that those media reports are “wrong and incorrect” as the provisions under Clause 21 are in the nature of “precautions for management”.

The consolidated revised guidelines were issued on April 15, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced extension of the lockdown till May 3.

Modi also said certain industrial activities will be allowed in some areas after April 20. The guidelines specified the details of such exempted activities and the conditions for exemption.

Certain quarters of industry including exporters have raised concerns over the penal provisions in the guidelines, saying it may lead to harassment by authorities and due to this manufacturing units may not start operations, even with minimum workforce.

The guidelines of the home ministry have listed out standard operating protocols for social distancing at offices, workplaces, factories and establishments, and penalties for offences regarding violation of lockdown measures under relevant sections of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and the IPC.

According to the guidelines, activities that are allowed to operate include manufacturing and other industrial establishments with access control in special economic zones (SEZs) and export-oriented units (EOUs), industrial estate, and industrial townships.

These establishments will have to make arrangements for stay of workers within their premises as far as possible or in the adjacent buildings. The transportation of workers to workplaces would also have to be arranged by the employers in dedicated transport by ensuring social distancing.

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