Odisha police fined BJP leader and Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi on Thursday for attending a gathering without a face mask and violating social distancing norms laid down by the government to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Images showing her surrounded by supporters at a party worker's residence in violation of the government norms were widely shared on social media.
The parliamentarian said she acknowledged her duty, respected the sentiments and concerns of people and volunteered to pay the fine according to the rules.
A penalty was imposed on the MP and 20 others for violating social distancing norms, Commissioner of Police Sudhansu Sarangi told PTI.
People must observe self-discipline and strictly adhere to norms; they should cooperate with the government in the fight against the coronavirus, he said.
"It has come to our notice that #SocialDistancing & requirement of wearing masks were not followed in a political congregation at Bhubaneswar. Fine was collected from 21 identified participants as per law. We request all to follow the social distancing norms scrupulously," DCP Anup Sahoo tweeted.
Odisha has imposed harsher fines for spitting in public and not following rules such as wearing masks or maintaining social distance in view of the pandemic.
The penalty has been set at Rs 500 which will increase to Rs 1,000 for subsequent violations.
The Lok Sabha member had gone to the house of a party leader where she and others were seen without face masks and not maintaining distance with each other.
After the images went viral and drew criticism, Sarangi clarified on Twitter that she visited Jagannath Pradhan's residence on Wednesday "under very special circumstances" but she respects people's concerns regarding COVID-19 norms.
"Under very special circumstances, I went to the residence of Sri Jagannath Pradhan, BJP leader, yesterday. I fully appreciate & respect people's concern regarding adherence to COVID19 norms. It is a good sign. Acknowledging my duty, I have volunteered to pay the fine due," the lawmaker tweeted.
Some social activists had lodged a complaint with the capital police station here against her for not respecting social distancing guidelines, sources said.
The complaint was lodged after the lawmaker shared on Twitter pictures of her interaction with BJP leaders and workers. The photos also went viral on social media.
"Held good discussion with BJP District Presidents of Bhubaneswar & Khurda in the presence of senior BJP leader, Sri Jagannath Pradhan, yesterday.
"We talked regarding ways of strengthening BJP in my Parl Constituency & resolved to serve people in a much better manner. Felt happy, Sarangi had tweeted while sharing photos.