On March 12, 2020, during the review meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, the centre has decided to invoke Epidemic Act 1897 to ensure that multiple government advisories issued from time to time by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare/State/UTs on COVID-19 become enforceable. In this regard, all the states and union territories (UTs) of India are advised to invoke the provisions of Section 2 of the Epidemic Disease Act 1897. Apart from this, Disaster Management (DM) Act 2005 also invocated, and powers exercised by the home secretary (Ajay Kumar Bhalla) for being the Chairman of the National Executive Committee (NEC) under section 10 of the DM Act (2005) have been delegated to the Ministry of Health and Family welfare.
- Epidemic Act 1897 empowers the central government for prevention of the spread of “dangerous epidemic diseases”. Now, its invocation will combat novel coronavirus in India.
- While section 2 of Epidemic Act 1897 includes special measures to be taken to prescribe regulations regarding the dangerous epidemic disease. It consists of detention of people or any vessel from international shores that are potent to spread the epidemic in the country.
–The Act can be used to restrict the movement of suspected coronavirus patients to prevent further spread of the disease.
-The home ministry has prohibited cruise ships, crew, or passengers from coronavirus-hit nations to come to India till March 31, 2020, under the act.
-Starting from 13 March 2020, all existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International Organizations, employment, project visas, stand suspended until 15 April 2020.
Karnataka becomes the first state to invoke provisions of Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897
Karnataka became the first state in the country to notify regulations titled “The Karnataka Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020” to prevent the outbreak and spread of the novel coronavirus under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
The reason behind the Combined invoking of Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897& DM Act 2005:
Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, gives the Central and State Governments overarching powers but it lacked speedily set up management systems required for a coordinated and concerted response. Therefore, the DM Act, 2005, also enacted to provide for an exhaustive administrative set up for disaster preparedness.
About Epidemic Act 1897:
The Act was formulated pre-independence to control bubonic plague which started in September 1986 in the Bombay state of former British India. Following are the official definitions of the acts
- Section 2 of the Act states: “When at any time the State Government (now Centre) 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 3 of the Act states: “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 of the Act states: “No suit or other legal proceedings shall lie against any person for anything done in good faith under the act.”