New Delhi: Soldiers failing to disclose possible Covid-19 symptoms, their travel details to an identified hotspot or even about their contact with a suspected patient will be tried under the Army Act, 1950, “for breach of discipline”.
An advisory issued last week by the Adjutant General’s branch stated that Army personnel should disclose to their superiors — either during rolls calls or during medical screening — if they have Covid-19 symptoms such as cough, throat pain, fever, breathing difficulties, their possible contact with any Covid-19 patient, friend or relative while on leave or temporary duties, or about their travel to a Covid-19 hotspot as identified by the government.
The advisory states that concealing any such information will put other troops in harm and thus the act will be treated as “willful concealment” and dealt with under the Army Act for breach of discipline.
The advisory comes at a time when India is facing a 21-day lockdown and the government is trying to control the Covid-19 outbreak with 942 cases in the country as on Monday morning.
Recently, the Kerala government suspended Kollam Sub-Collector Anupam Mishra who had jumped home quarantine after coming back from a holiday in Singapore. The 2016-batch IAS officer and his wife had left for his hometown in Uttar Pradesh without informing the district collector and health authorities, who had advised them to remain home quarantined for two weeks.
Army sources said any such non-disclosure of information related to the pandemic is likely to be tried under Section 42 (e) of the Act that deals with neglect to obey any general, local or other order. Concealing of venereal diseases is also tried under the same section, since the offence is not contracting a disease but concealing it, an Army source said.
Defence sources said the Navy and the Air Force, too, could take a similar decision soon.
Leaves to be regularised, soldiers to join nearest base after 15 April
Since the Covid-19 outbreak in India, leaves of military personnel have been extended up to 15 April. The advisory says the leave until this period will be regularised as per further directions.
It also states that personnel, after the extended leave period, will report to the nearest military station headquarters or unit if they do not have the means for authorised travel to their own units, and will be considered on duty. They will, however, need to be tested first.
The advisory also states that command headquarters will identify locations for setting up transit facilities for housing suspected Covid-19 personnel and establish travel arrangements at various points.
As per the advisory, troops kept in quarantine will be regarded as “on duty”. It also advises veterans to disclose their possible contact with any dependent or other family member who would have returned from a coronavirus-affected area.
As reported by ThePrint, the military has been following stringent drills to prevent coronavirus from entering its bases, from restricting entry of civil contractual staff to staggered attendance and meal timing of soldiers to prevent crowding.
The Army has reported three positive cases of coronavirus infection so far. The first case of Covid-19 was a 34-year-old jawan in Leh, following which the Army had quarantined all soldiers and colleagues of the jawan attached to the Ladakh Scouts Regimental Centre.
On Sunday, an Army doctor posted with the Command Hospital in Kolkata and a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) posted in Dehradun tested positive for Covid-19.