In times of  Covid-19 pandemic,  Center and states in India have enforced the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in their respective areas.The Act which was enacted for preventing spread of epidemic diseases empowers both the Central and State Government(s) to take certain actions to prevent spread of such diseases.

  •  Section 2 of the Act empowers State Governments to take special measures and prescribe regulations during the outbreak of an epidemic disease. It states that if the State Government thinks that if other Acts are insufficient for the said purpose, it may take such measures by way of a public notice to prescribe temporary regulations for the public/class of persons to observe.
  •  Section 2A of the Act empowers the Central Government to take measures and pass regulations for the inspection of any ship arriving  or leaving India and for detention of any person intending to sail, if the Central Government is satisfied  that India or any part of India is threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease and the ordinary statutes in force will be insufficient to take an appropriate action.
  • According to Section 3 of the Act,any person who disobeys an order or regulation made by the government under the Act, shall be punished in accordance with Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (“IPC”). Section 188, IPC imposes punishment for disobeying an order promulgated by a public servant. no suit or legal proceeding shall be held against any
  • As per the Section 4,person who acts in good faith to serve the purpose of the Act.


  • The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 lacks reflections of modern-day realities of the spread of diseases.
  • The Act is  silent on the very definition of an ‘epidemic disease.
  • The Act does not envisage on the legal framework of availability and distribution of vaccine and drugs and implementation of response measures.
  •  There is no explicit reference pertaining to the ethical aspects or human rights principles during a response to an epidemic.
  • There is no roadmap on an explicit description of all the implementing measures and agencies to be instituted in the event of any emergency.

So there is a need for an one over-arching public health legislation, so that the implementation of the responses to an epidemic can be effectively monitor. These measures are more important when public health is not a central or even a concurrent subject but purely a state subject.

               Moreover a law is required that provides a detailed road map of the course of action and a clear demarcation between rights and liberties; the ones that may be restricted by the State and the ones that cannot be restricted.




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