Self-isolation and legality of fines: expert’s new comments

Are fines for going outside “without reasonable excuse” legal?

After the introduction of the self-isolation regime in Russian regions, there is still no clarity (even among experts in law) if the restriction of movement and fines imposed for going outside “without reasonable excuse” are legal, notes political expert Karina Gorbachyova. After the adoption of amendments to the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offences, the fine for violating the new rules has significantly gone up, which has caused another concern among Russians. Messages about those strictly punished by the ruble immediately appear: a citizen of Ufa was the first to be punished. In a column written for Realnoe Vremya, the expert explains if the fines are legal and what for they can be imposed.

Amendments to the Code of the Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation

Citizens haven’t had the time to find out what “self-isolation” means when a new problem has appeared — fines for violating the self-isolation regime. Society split into two camps: those who aren’t afraid of fines and those who even don’t go out for shopping “just in case”. What does the law say about it?

Legislation on administrative offences changed on 1 April. It seems that assuming that it is impossible to make people stay home without threatening with punishment, the State Duma successfully offered to impose new fines and raise old ones. The amendments have already been signed by the president and come in force. What do they envisage?

The main change was made to the new article 20.6.1. of the Code of the Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation, which envisages punishment for violating rules of behaviour when a state of high alert is imposed on a territory with a risk of a state of emergency or in an emergency zone. This norm is a novelty in its widest sense because previously legislation wasn’t familiar with the “rules of behaviour” mentioned in the article.

Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov
It seems that assuming that it is impossible to make people stay home without threatening with punishment, the State Duma successfully offered to impose new fines and raise old ones

On 2 April, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed a decree of the government On Establishment of Compulsory Rules of Behaviour for Citizens and Organisations when State of High Alert or Emergency are Declared. In accordance with Clause 3, citizens are obliged to comply with legislation on protection of population and territories from emergencies, on sanitary and epidemiological well-being of the population as well as legal requirements of people who prevent and cope with emergencies. This complies with Federal Law No. 68, Federal Law No. 52 and regulations establishing a state of high alert or quarantine in regions. A violation of the rules of behaviour during the high alert is punished by a fine from 1,000 to 30,000 rubles for citizens.

The amount of fines for violating legislation aimed to provide sanitary and epidemiological well-being of the population has also gone up. Now the fine for violations mentioned in Part 2 of Article 6.3. of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences is from 15,000 to 40,000 rubles.

Hunt for citizens

People are seriously concerned about the fine. It is a huge amount for regions with the average salary from 20,000 to 35,000. And if we consider the rise in prices during the crisis, this sum is simply astronomical. Many are convinced that one can’t go outside. The mass media diligently promote this thought saying that the police have already begun to impose fines on citizens. We should examine the indicated articles to understand if they are applied to everybody and applicable to those who went out to buy bread or go to work.

Photo: Maksim Platonov
We should examine the indicated articles to understand if they are applied to everybody and applicable to those who went out to buy bread or go to work

It became known about facts of heavy fines in Bashkiria as early as 2 April. As it was said, according to the administrative code, such an amount can be imposed for a violation of Article 6.3. This norm cites the violation of Article 31 of Federal Law No. 52 on sanitary and epidemiological well-being of the population, particularly restrictive measures (quarantine) if they are taken. These measures, indeed, were taken by a decree of the Chief Public Health Doctor of the Russian Federation on 18 March and mean that citizens who arrived in the country from abroad must be isolated. Nothing is said about the isolation (quarantine) of other categories of citizens in this and further decree of the Chief Public Health Doctor of the Russian Federation. So the fine from 15,000 rubles in Article 6.3. in the Code of the Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation is possible only for those who are back from abroad and left home before the two-week quarantine term is over.

We should note separately that regional leaders in some regions declared quarantine everywhere. For instance, quarantine, not a state of alert, was declared in Vologda Oblast and Krasnodar Krai.

Citizens are also scared of fines in Article 19.4. Disobedience to a legal enactment of an official of a body exercising state supervision (control), an official of an organisation authorised in accordance with federal laws to exercise state supervision, an official of a body exercising municipal control. Though the sum is much lower — from 500 to 1,000 rubles for citizens, one should know how it can be applied. As regulations on state of alert recommend to comply the “regime of self-isolation”, that’s to say, go out to get to work, go to a shop, zoo store, bank, walk pets and for a reasonable excuse, police officers have the right to ask you why you went outside. In case the excuse isn’t reasonable, according to some assumptions, a police officer can order the citizen to go home. In case of disobedience, the policeman has the right to impose a fine. A fine can also be imposed if there is a written order to stay home but the person is caught in the street again (Article 19.5 Code of the Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation).

Photo: Maksim Platonov
As regulations on state of alert recommend to comply the “regime of self-isolation”, that’s to say, go out to get to work, go to a shop, zoo store, bank, walk pets and for reasonable excuse, police officers have the right to ask you why you went outside

Debate isnt over

A week after the introduction of “self-isolation” whose definition is still absent in a law, jurists keep debating if it is legal in general to restrict people’s right to move in the current conditions. Last time we indicated that Clause 10 Article 4 of the law On Protection of the Population and Territories from Natural and Manmade Emergencies allows restricting access of people and vehicles to a territory where there is an emergency or its threat when a state of high alert is declared.

However, more specialists are inclined to consider that a ban on entrance and exit is meant, not movement inside a territory. At the same time, the law permits taking only those measures that don’t restrict the rights and freedoms of citizens (subclause D, Clause 10 Article 4). It means that the “obligation” to follow the “self-isolation regime” is rather a recommendation.

So civil activist Rushan Kabirov with advocate Andrey Petrushkin have filed a claim on the illegality of restrictions on freedom of movement in Tatarstan in the republic’s Supreme Court.

By Karina Gorbachyova
BashkortostanTatarstan
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