Under this Article, we will study about the Colonial-era “Epidemic Diseases act” which is been invoked by the centre and state governments in order to curb the spread of the Corona virus disease. This act came into force on 4th February, 1897 for the better prevention of the spread of Dangerous Epidemic Diseases.
This Act is very small and simple it has four sections only, the first section describes the title and the extent, the second section empowers state and central government to take any necessary measures and lay down regulations that are to be followed by public to stop the spread of disease. The third section defines penalty for violating any of the regulations laid down, whereas the fourth section gives legal protection to persons acting under the act.
HISTORY of Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897
This act was 1st time implemented in Mumbai to tackle the bubonic plague by British 123 years ago. 2nd time this act was invoked by Maharashtra state in Pune in 2009 in order to control the spreading of Swine flu. Thereafter, in 2015, it was used to deal with dengue and malaria in Chandigarh and in 2018, the Act was enforced as cholera began to spread in a region of Gujarat. In March 2020, the act is being enforced across India in order to limit the spread of corona virus.
IMPORTANT PROVISIONS under Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897
Section 2: Powers of State Government-
(1) Whenever the state government is satisfied that the state or any part is threatened with an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease; and if it thinks that the ordinary provisions of the law are insufficient then the state may take or empower any person to take any measures, by public notice prescribing such temporary rules to be followed by the public to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread.
(2) The state government may also lay down the rules for inspection of persons suspected of being infected with such disease by the inspecting officer.
Multiple states have invoked this section to come up with their own rules and regulations like-
• The Telangana Epidemic Diseases (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020
• Kerala Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020
• Delhi Epidemic Diseases (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020
• The Maharashtra Epidemic Diseases (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020
• Karnataka Epidemic Diseases (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020
Section 2A: Powers of Central Government
Similar powers are also provided to the central government as it can also take measures and prescribe rules and regulations to inspect people, ships and vessels leaving or entering the country through the coastal borders and can also prescribe the rules and regulations for their detention.
Section 3: Penalty
This section lays down the penalty against the people for disobeying any rules and regulations or order made under this Act. It states that any person who violates any orders issued under this act by either state or central government will be punished under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, which provides 6 months imprisonment or 1,000 rupees fine or both.
Section 4: Protection to persons acting under this act
This section basically protects the persons from any suits or legal proceedings for any act done by him in good faith which he was required to done under this act.
This act is amended by the Government for first time in 2020 since its enactment i.e 1897.
THE EPIDEMIC DISEASES (AMENDMENT) ORDINANCE, 2020
PLEASE NOTE: This amendment is issued as an ordinance by the government as parliament was not in session and ordinance has same effect as an act of parliament.
Important Highlights of this ordinance are:
• It will criminalise attacks on healthcare personnel, including doctors, nurses, paramedics and ASHA workers.
• It will make them a non-bailable offence.
• The guilty can be sent to jail for 3 months to 5 years, with a fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh.
• If there is grievous injury, the guilty could be sent to jail for 6 months to 7 years and fined Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.
• If damage was done to vehicles or clinics of healthcare workers, a compensation amounting to twice the market value of the damaged property would be charged from the accused.