#CoronaOutBreak THE EPIDEMIC DISEASE ACT, 1897: A TOOL TO COMBAT COVID-19 by Vikas Rathour

In the wake of the declaration of recent nationwide lockdown by Hon'ble PM, It is sure that the contemporary formidable situation not only for a single country like China, Italy or India but also for the whole world. The situation is arisen just because of COVID-19 (a name announced for new Coronavirus disease by World Health Organization on 11 February 2020) which had been expanding its reach globally. The COVID-19 viral disease that has swept into more than 114 countries and killed more than 13,000 people in the world and affected more than 3,00,000, On 11 March 2020 the COVID-19 viral disease has declared a pandemic. Every country is trying to find out the solution and trying to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease. 
In order to limit the spread of coronavirus in India, the Central and State governments invoked the 123-year-old legislation named THE EPIDEMIC DISEASE ACT, 1897 to combat COVID 19. This act is a special law empowering the Central government as well as state government to adopt special precautions and measures and enforce stringent policies in order to prevent the outbreak of any dangerous pandemic disease. 
The 1896 bubonic plague pandemic of Bombay (now Mumbai) gradually spread to most part of the subcontinent, is a well known major event for colonial India. The increasing rate of the pandemic in the state was needed the administrative response. As a result, Queen Victoria directed the Government to take the stringent measures for eradication of pestilence. On January 19, 1897, about four months after the plague was identified in Bombay The Epidemic Bill was introduced in the Council of Governor-General of India in Calcutta for the “better prevention of the spread of dangerous pandemic disease “the power mentioned in the Bill were extraordinary but necessary,  especially that the people must “trust the direction of the executive in the grave and critical circumstances. The Epidemic Disease Act passed on February 4, 1897. This legislation which empowers the Government to imprison any person if he or she found to be in violation of the prescribed measures, was first enacted to control the bubonic plague, spread across then presidency of Bombay. 
The Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 is an act with only 4 sections containing the provision to empowering the Central as well as State government to take measures, like screening of travellers, an inspection of vessels, a special ward for affected persons etc. for the prevention of the spread of dangerous pandemic disease. (Central and State governments are doing right now) The provisions are as follows: 
Section 2: Power to take special measures and prescribe regulations as to dangerous epidemic disease 
Section 2(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. 
Section 2(2): In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions, the State Government may take measures and prescribe regulations for- 
(b)The inspection of persons travelling by railway or otherwise, and the segregation, in hospital, temporary accommodation or otherwise, of persons suspected by the inspecting officer of being infected with any such disease. 
Section 2A: Power 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 in the territories to which this Act extends and for such detention thereof, or of any person intending to sail therein, or arriving thereby, as may be necessary. 
Section 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). 
Section 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. 
This special law empowers the state to ban public gatherings, ask schools and large institutions to stop functioning, and issue advisories to companies to explore work-from-home models. It also gives the state a right to penalize media organizations spreading misinformation. 
The power under Section 2 of The Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 is invoked by the Government, the Centre has announced a complete lockdown of 75 districts in 22 States and Union Territories and suspended all passenger trains, inter-state buses and metro services across the country till March 31. Delhi, Jharkhand, Punjab and Nagaland has declared a statewide lockdown, exempting only essential services, while similar curbs were announced in a number of districts in Bihar, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and establishment of isolation centres for affected and suspected persons, screening of travellers and inspection of the ships or any mean of transport which are arriving or leaving the ports as steps for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 epidemic disease. 
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About the Author: Vikas Rathour is Student of Law at PSIT, Kanpur. He can be reached at [email protected]

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