In a first-of-its-kind initiative in the country, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government will soon appoint an agency to design, build, operate and maintain a state-wide fine collection system for Covid-related offences.
Relief and rehabilitation principal secretary Aseem Gupta confirmed that his department has invited proposals from individuals as well as agencies to prepare the system for mobilization of fines for Covid-related offences. “We found that we were imposing fines for violation of the Disaster Management Act, but there was a lack of uniformity. Once a new system comes into force, we expect uniformity across the state. In addition, we have proposed that the entire fine amount will be utilized exclusively to set up infrastructure for Covid-related treatment,” Gupta said.
Elaborating on the novel concept, Gupta said it is on the lines of e-challan drafted by the traffic branch for collecting fines for traffic-related offences, on the spot. “It is on the same lines, but slightly different. We expect the new agency to build a mobile app. According to provisions of the Disaster Management Act, the collector will be the competent authority to impose the fine,” Gupta said.
Alarmed at the sudden spurt in Covid-19 cases across the state last year, provisions of the Epidemic Act, 1897, and Disaster Management Act, 2005, were invoked for the first time to take on violators of orders issued under the two stringent legislations. For individuals, the local administration had imposed a fine of Rs 500 for violation of the DM Act, while for small professionals, it was Rs 10,000, and for major commercial establishments Rs 50,000. “We expect the agency to develop a software for collection of fines from erring persons and establishments. Once developed, we will know how a message is sent on a cellphone and how fine is collected,” an official said.
On the mode of payment, the official said it has been made clear in the request for the proposal while the agency will collect the fine, it will be paid a nominal amount as commission. “Whosoever proposes the lowest commission and who has developed the software will be given the contract. We have proposed to grant the agency a commission between Rs 4 and Rs 5 per case,” the official said.
The official said since the lockdown, around 90,000 cases were registered in the state for DM Act violation. He said last year, the relief and rehabilitation department utilized Rs 826 crore and this year Rs 1,600 crore will be used to fight Covid.