An urgent measure to Combat Coronavirus: The Epidemic Disease Act, 1897

Last Updated at: April 03, 2020
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Find out what is Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897_

The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is fast spreading its wings across the globe and India is no exception either. It’s quite natural for you to feel anxious- thanks to all the scary news coming in from all quarters. But, we believe, like every storm, this phase will pass over, sooner than later. Till then, we need to stay safe and take all the precautions we can, to protect ourselves and loved ones.

The Indian Government has advised people to stay indoors and dispense with unnecessary travel as much as possible. Companies are resorting to work-from-home norms to protect their employees. Many prominent companies has asked its employees from Kerala, Bengaluru, Delhi-NCR, and Maharastra to work from home. Necessary arrangements and contingency plans have also been put in place in this regard.

To continue with the measures to combat Coronavirus, the Government has recently invoked section 2 of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897. Accordingly, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued an advisory to all States and Union Territories to invoke and enforce the provisions therein. The West Bengal Government has become one of the first States to invoke the provisions of this Act and announced the closure of all educational institutions till April 15th. As stated by Ms. Mamta Bannerjee, the West Bengal Chief Minister, this is being done to ensure complete isolation of people possibly infected with the Coronavirus.

What is the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897?

The Epidemic Disease Act, 1897, was originally framed to combat the threat of the Bubonic Plague in the erstwhile State of Mumbai. The scope of the Act was further extended to prevent the spread of plague, cholera, swine flu, and other “dangerous epidemic diseases” as well. This Act included only four sections and remains, to date, one of the shortest Acts in India.

Vide the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897; the Governor-General of India conferred special powers on the local authorities to enforce necessary control measures so that the spread of a dangerous epidemic could be controlled. The Act empowered the authorities to go beyond the ambit of ordinary laws to combat a pandemic.

This Act drew its fair share of criticism from the historians too. The way it was implemented by the British Rule led the historians to term this Act as “one of the most Draconian legislation ever implemented in Colonial India”. Some even said the Act had tremendous potential for abuse. The Act remained mostly dormant in the Indian post-independence era.

However, as India is fighting hard to get the better of the Coronavirus, the Epidemic Disease Act of 1897 has come to prominence from nowhere. According to most constitutional experts, there is nothing wrong if The Government resorts to this age-old Act to ensure and enforce ‘social distance’ during the outbreak of the Corona. The experts say that many such laws from the colonial era continue to be in force in the statute and there is no harm if the Epidemic Disease Act is invoked to contain this pandemic.

Section 2 of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897

Section 2 of this Act permits the State to prescribe certain regulations for inspecting people travelling through railways or any other mode of transportation. Vide Section 2A, the Government was empowered to inspect any ship, arriving or leaving any port and detention of any individual intending to arrive or sail.

This section empowers the Government to –

  • Prescribe regulations for inspecting people travelling by railway, ship or any other mode of transportation
  • Identify persons suspected by a competent inspecting officer of being infected by any of the “dangerous epidemic diseases”.
  • Segregate such persons in a hospital
  • Isolate such persons by providing temporary accommodation.

Taking a cue from this Act, the Indian Home Ministry has also prohibited the entry of crew, passengers and cruise ships from nations hit by the Coronavirus with immediate effect, at least till 31st March 2020.

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An urgent measure to Combat Coronavirus: The Epidemic Disease Act, 1897

603

The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is fast spreading its wings across the globe and India is no exception either. It’s quite natural for you to feel anxious- thanks to all the scary news coming in from all quarters. But, we believe, like every storm, this phase will pass over, sooner than later. Till then, we need to stay safe and take all the precautions we can, to protect ourselves and loved ones.

The Indian Government has advised people to stay indoors and dispense with unnecessary travel as much as possible. Companies are resorting to work-from-home norms to protect their employees. Many prominent companies has asked its employees from Kerala, Bengaluru, Delhi-NCR, and Maharastra to work from home. Necessary arrangements and contingency plans have also been put in place in this regard.

To continue with the measures to combat Coronavirus, the Government has recently invoked section 2 of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897. Accordingly, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued an advisory to all States and Union Territories to invoke and enforce the provisions therein. The West Bengal Government has become one of the first States to invoke the provisions of this Act and announced the closure of all educational institutions till April 15th. As stated by Ms. Mamta Bannerjee, the West Bengal Chief Minister, this is being done to ensure complete isolation of people possibly infected with the Coronavirus.

What is the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897?

The Epidemic Disease Act, 1897, was originally framed to combat the threat of the Bubonic Plague in the erstwhile State of Mumbai. The scope of the Act was further extended to prevent the spread of plague, cholera, swine flu, and other “dangerous epidemic diseases” as well. This Act included only four sections and remains, to date, one of the shortest Acts in India.

Vide the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897; the Governor-General of India conferred special powers on the local authorities to enforce necessary control measures so that the spread of a dangerous epidemic could be controlled. The Act empowered the authorities to go beyond the ambit of ordinary laws to combat a pandemic.

This Act drew its fair share of criticism from the historians too. The way it was implemented by the British Rule led the historians to term this Act as “one of the most Draconian legislation ever implemented in Colonial India”. Some even said the Act had tremendous potential for abuse. The Act remained mostly dormant in the Indian post-independence era.

However, as India is fighting hard to get the better of the Coronavirus, the Epidemic Disease Act of 1897 has come to prominence from nowhere. According to most constitutional experts, there is nothing wrong if The Government resorts to this age-old Act to ensure and enforce ‘social distance’ during the outbreak of the Corona. The experts say that many such laws from the colonial era continue to be in force in the statute and there is no harm if the Epidemic Disease Act is invoked to contain this pandemic.

Section 2 of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897

Section 2 of this Act permits the State to prescribe certain regulations for inspecting people travelling through railways or any other mode of transportation. Vide Section 2A, the Government was empowered to inspect any ship, arriving or leaving any port and detention of any individual intending to arrive or sail.

This section empowers the Government to –

  • Prescribe regulations for inspecting people travelling by railway, ship or any other mode of transportation
  • Identify persons suspected by a competent inspecting officer of being infected by any of the “dangerous epidemic diseases”.
  • Segregate such persons in a hospital
  • Isolate such persons by providing temporary accommodation.

Taking a cue from this Act, the Indian Home Ministry has also prohibited the entry of crew, passengers and cruise ships from nations hit by the Coronavirus with immediate effect, at least till 31st March 2020.

Download the mobile app now

Now, you are on your home. Stay Safe. Stay at home and register your company at Vakilsearch Mobile app in 5 minutes

0

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