Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897

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Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897
Emblem of India.svg
Imperial Legislative Council
(Now the powers of the act rest with Parliament of India)
  • An Act to provide for the better prevention of the spread of Dangerous Epidemic Diseases
CitationAct No. 3 of 1897
Territorial extent India
Enacted byImperial Legislative Council
(Now the powers of the act rest with Parliament of India)
Amended by
Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020[1][2]
This Act has also been amended in its application to various regions and states such as the Epidemic Diseases (Punjab Amendment) Act, 1944 etc. and the extended to Dadra and Nagar Haveli (w.e.f. 1-7-1965) by Reg. 6 of 1963, s. 2 and Sch. etc.
Keywords
epidemic, disease
Status: Amended

The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 is a law which was first enacted to tackle bubonic plague in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in former British India.[3] The law is meant for containment of epidemics by providing special powers that are required for the implementation of containment measures to control the spread of the disease.[4][5]

The Act has been routinely used to contain various diseases in India such as swine flu, cholera, malaria and dengue.[6] In 2018, the Act was enforced as cholera began to spread in a region of Gujarat. In 2015, it was used to deal with dengue and malaria in Chandigarh and in 2009 it was invoked in Pune to combat swine flu. Starting in March 2020, the act is being enforced across India in order to limit the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 during the COVID-19 pandemic in India.[6]

Legal provisions[edit]

Section 2 of the Act reads:[7][4][5]

2. Power to take special measures and prescribe regulations as to dangerous epidemic disease

(1) When at any time the [State Government] is satisfied that [the State] or any part thereof is visited by, or threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease, the [State Government], if [it] thinks that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient for the purpose, may take, or require or empower any person to take, such measures and, by public notice, prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by the public or by any person or class of persons as [it] shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof, and may determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation if any) shall be defrayed.

2A. Powers of Central Government

When the Central Government is satisfied that India or any part thereof is visited by, or threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease and that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof, the Central Government may take measures and prescribe regulations for the inspection of any ship or vessel leaving or arriving at any port and for such detention thereof, or of any person intending to sail therein, or arriving thereby, as may be necessary.

3. Penalty.

Any person disobeying any regulation or order made under this Act shall be deemed to have committed an offence punishable under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).

4. Protection to persons acting under Act.

No suit or other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything done or in good faith intended to be done under this Act.

2020 Amendments[edit]

On 22 April 2020, the Government of India announced the promulgation of an ordinance, 'The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance 2020', to amend the act, adding provisions to punish those attacking doctors or health workers.[1][8] The ordinance allows for up to seven years of jail for attacking doctors or health workers (including ASHA workers). The offense will be cognizable and non-bailable among other things.[9][10] In addition to this, such cases need to be investigated in a time-bound and must be resolved in a year. Also, the law specifies that the guilty will have to pay twice the market value of the damaged property as compensation for damaging the assets of health care staff including vehicles and clinics.[11]

The bill was introduced by the Minister of Health and Family Affairs, Harsh Vardhan. The Rajya Sabha approved the bill on 19 September 2020 and the Lok Sabha on 21 September 2020.

COVID-19 pandemic[edit]

Following the COVID-19 pandemic the Cabinet Secretary of India on 11 March 2020 announced that all states and Union territories should invoke provisions of Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Ministry of Law and Justice (22 April 2020), The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 (PDF), The Gazette of India, Government of India
  2. ^ "Epidemic Act amended: Penalty for any violence against health care workers increased to 7 years in Jail". 23 April 2020.
  3. ^ Tiwari, Manish (19 March 2020). "The legal hole in battling Covid-19". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b "The 123-year-old law that India may invoke to counter coronavirus". The Economic Times. 12 March 2020. Retrieved 12 March 2020.
  5. ^ a b Awasthi, Prashasti. "Centre invokes 'Epidemic Act' and 'Disaster Management Act' to prevent spread of coronavirus". @businessline. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  6. ^ a b "A 123-yr-old Act to combat coronavirus in India; experts say nothing wrong". Livemint. IANS. 14 March 2020. Retrieved 15 March 2020.CS1 maint: others (link)
  7. ^ Government of India (1897)
  8. ^ "Coronavirus crisis: Govt brings in ordinance; up to 7-year jail for attacking health workers". Business Today. 22 April 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  9. ^ "Coronavirus pandemic: Up to 7 years in jail for attack on doctors, health workers; Centre brings ordinance". The Financial Express. 22 April 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  10. ^ Nair, Sangeeta (23 April 2020). "Epidemic Act amended: Penalty for any violence against health care workers increased to 7 years in Jail". Jagran Josh. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  11. ^ http://www.mondaq.com/india/employment-and-workforce-wellbeing/941818/epidemic-diseases-amendment-ordinance-2020-receives-presidential-assent-
  12. ^ "To combat coronavirus, India invokes provisions of colonial-era Epidemic Diseases Act: A look at what this means". Firstpost. 12 March 2020. Retrieved 12 March 2020.

Bibliography[edit]