This article is written by Neelam Prusty, from Madhusudan Law College, Odisha. This is an article explaining the culture of India relating to spitting habit and its effect in the situation of COVID-19. The laws under which the Government of India is regulating the safety measures relating to spitting is discussed in this article.
In India, we cannot blame people who eat paan and gutka for the practice of spitting. Spitting has been obsessed with Indians for a long time. We can observe from the ancient practice of our mothers and grandmothers who gently spit on their children to keep them protected from buri nazar. There are a lot of idioms relating to spitting that are metaphorically used in our day to day conversation such as thoo-thoo karna which literally means to get ashamed of something. Hence in Indian culture, spitting is not a taboo. From time immemorial, spitting has been a part of Indian society and practice. Since the spits make the walls and roads dirty, the Government has made some laws against spitting. Nowadays, the effect of COVID-19 has forced the Government of India to implement those laws strictly to protect people from getting infected from COVID-19.
Pandemic in India
In the initial months of 2020, a disease named COVID-19 came up in the news. The disease was just like the flu which may cause death. Hence, it was infectious and dangerous to the lives of the people. As a preventive measure, the Government of India declared lockdown in the country. But still, the disease started spreading all over the country. The official report says more than 62 thousand people have died as per the record till August due to COVID-19 whereas around 3.5 million people suffered from the disease. Due to the rapid growth of this infectious virus, people have become unemployed and many have lost their jobs. The whole country is in short of safe food and water. The whole country is suffering due to the lockdown and growth rate of transmission. The situation is not only in India but all over the world.
People worldwide are suffering from this disease and living in fear of transmission. Recently, after a lot of discussions, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared COVID-19 as Pandemic. In the views of the information given by WHO, the Government of India considered the previous laws relating to spitting and littering and implemented it. Since the main reason for the transmission of such flu-like infectious disease can be caused by cough, spit, and litter. The government has taken a lot of steps to control the transmission of COVID-19 under various laws.
Spitting as an offence under the Disaster Management Act
Nowadays, Spitting anywhere in the public is an offence. This rule came up after the COVID-19 as a preventive measure to stop the spread of the disease. In many cities, the municipal corporation or municipality came up with laws to control the habit of spitting here and there in the public. But the people didn’t take the law seriously and continued with their habit of spitting in the public. With the growing number of people suffering from COVID-19, it became hard to control the spread of such infectious disease. Many municipal corporations amended their law and implemented it in a different way with more strict execution.
The Mumbai Municipal Corporation imposed a fine of Rs. 1,000 for spitting in public.
Later, the strictness was adopted by the municipal corporation of Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Haryana, Nagaland and Assam. The states banned the use of smokeless tobacco products as well as spitting in public places due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Since the law was adopted by some states and the laws started showing positive results, there was a need for national law to be enforced in every state in a very strict and compulsory manner to fight against COVID-19. Hence the Government of India accepted the tenderness of the situation and unitedly decided to come up with laws against spitting at the national level. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) under the Government of India revised the COVID-19 guidelines that are must for every citizen within the boundaries of India to follow strictly and extended the lockdown till May 3, 2020. The Government recognised spitting in public as a public offence and is punishable under Section 51 (b) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
The Disaster Management Act came into force since the COVID-19 has created chaos in the society and the situation is growing harsher than any other natural calamity. People are suffering medically as well as mentally and economically. The people are not getting enough food and safe drinking water at this time. Due to the lockdown for a long time, the people are losing their livelihoods and the people from middle-class society have also been short of money as they have been using their savings these days. Disaster Management Act made spitting in public spaces punishable with a fine or imprisonment that can extend to a period of one year or both. The Act strictly banned the sale of liquor, gutka, tobacco etc. According to the Government, the direction under the Disaster Management Act is to be implemented by the district magistrates through the collection of fines and other penal action such as imprisonment up to one year given under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. The law was directed to be followed strictly if anyone refused to comply with the provisions under the Disaster Management Act. The penalty may be imprisonment up to one year or a fine, or both.
Other anti-spitting laws
India is a country where cleanliness and hygiene have been provided with special status in the mythology. People are supposed to clean their houses before the festivals like Diwali, Ganesh Puja and/or Lakshmi Puja. People in the country are very conscious about the cleanliness at their houses since it is believed that the house will head towards prosperity if the cleanliness is maintained. But people forget about the public. They prefer to clear their own place of living but don’t care about their surroundings.
The hygiene surroundings and cleanliness plays the same role as houses for the development and prosperity of the country. Hence, many other laws were made against the spitting in public which was never followed seriously by the people of the country. But during the situation of COVID-19, the laws are being enforced strictly to stop the spread of this infectious virus by the means of air. The set of laws that exist in India but came into force during the era of COVID-19 are as follows.
Factories Act, 1948
Under Section 20 of Factories Act, 1948, the factory is directed to have a sufficient number of spittoons in the premises of the factory to maintain cleanliness and hygienic environment. If any person violates the rule or spits anywhere in the premises of the factory except the spittoons that are situated at suitable places are liable for a penalty, not more than five rupees. The State Government has the absolute power to make rules regarding the spittoons and prescribe the minimum number of spittoons to be set up by the factories of that particular state.
Indian Railways (Penalties for Activities Affecting Cleanliness at Railway Premises) Rules, 2012
We must have observed the warning note in the railway platform requesting not to spit here and there on the railway premises and maintain cleanliness.
Under Clause (b) of Rule 3 of Indian Railway Rules, 2012, there is a list of activities that affect the cleanliness and hygiene in the railway premises. The law says that no person shall perform the prohibited activities listed such as cooking, bathing, spitting, urinating, washing clothes or shall not do any kind of household activities that can hamper the cleanliness of the railway premises. The railway has specific facilities that are available to the people for necessary activities such as toilets for urinating, bathroom for washing and bathing, and spittoons for spitting. In case, any person who violates the rule will be penalized for a fine of Rs. 500. under Rule 4 of the same Act.
Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Regulations, 1990
Like the Factories Act, 1948, Regulation 98 of the Dock Workers Regulation Act talks about the spittoons. Since the dock is an area that includes warehouses as well as store places, there are a lot of people working in the area. According to the law, the dockyard shall have a sufficient number of spittoons in convenient places to maintain cleanliness and hygienic environment. Under sub-rule (2) of Regulation 98, a penalty of a fine not more than Rs. 100 is imposed on the people who spit in the public areas in the dock except the spittoons provided in the premises of the dock. The law directs to clean and disinfect the spittoons available in the dockyard so that the spittoons will not be filled up and the area around the spittoons will remain clean.
Except for the above-mentioned laws that are enforced at the national level, there are many other laws that are promoted by various State Government and Municipal Corporation to maintain cleanliness and hygienic environment in their state. Cleanliness is always a positive mark that attracts tourists and pilgrims to the places which are the main source of income and tax for the Government. To safeguard the walls and roads from getting dirty by the habit of spitting and littering of the people, the Government has such laws. But unfortunately, the laws are not successfully executed.
Anti Littering Law, 2017
This law was passed by the Government of Uttar Pradesh in 2017. Later the Government of Uttarakhand also adopted the same law which imposes fine on the people who spit and litter in public places.
Bihar Municipal Act, 2007
In Bihar, spitting, urinating and throwing garbage in public was made an offence for which a penalty of Rs. 200 has to be paid by the people who are caught while doing such activities in public places.
The Government of Delhi came up with bye-laws regarding spitting in 2013. The municipal officers of Delhi drafted a set of laws which includes splitting as an offence and imposed a fine of Rs 250.
Though in South India, the culture of spitting is not so popular, the Government of these states has a set of rules regarding spitting since people outside their state migrate in search of work or visit the places in those states. The laws to prevent spitting are as follows:
- The Health Act, 1939 was proposed by Madras.
- Prohibition of Smoking and Spitting Act, 2002 by Tamil Nadu.
- Prevention of Disfigurement of Open places and Prohibition of Obscene and Objectionable and Advertisement Act, 1997 by Andhra Pradesh.
- Prevention of Spitting in Public Place Act, 2003 by West Bengal.
There are a lot of other laws in various Municipal corporation and union territories relating to spitting and littering but the government has failed to regulate the law due to lack of staffs to keep eyes on the movement of the people and the other reason was that the officials have various other works that are assigned to them and have to be completed within a particular time limit.
The Government of India has successfully implemented the law to protect its citizens from COVID-19. Now, it’s the time for the common man or the citizens of India to follow the rules and regulations made by the Government to keep them safe. As said previously in the introduction about the culture of spitting in India, we can infer that the Government has spitted on its citizens to protect them from ‘buri nazaar’ of COVID-19. We can support our Government by following the rules and regulations implemented by them to protect the citizens from the infectious disease of COVID-19. By doing so, our country will be very soon out of the bad effect of COVID-19.
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