The Origin and Shortcomings of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897

Must Read

What is the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016?

The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (“RERA”) is an Act of the Parliament. It seeks to protect...

Should the Exorbitant Amounts Charged for RT-PCR Tests be Refunded?

Introduction A plea has been filed in the Honourable Supreme Court of India seeking a refund of exorbitant amounts charged...

Should CCTV’s be Installed in the Police Station?

Introduction In a recent judgment, the bench led by Justice Nariman issued directions to both the state and Union Territory...

A Legal Analysis of the West Bengal Political Crisis on IPS Deputation

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has recently summoned three IPS officers of West Bengal (WB). The decision was...

Explained: Postal Ballot for NRIs

At the end of November 2020, Election Commission sent a proposal to the law ministry to amend the Representation...

Explained: Constitutional Provisions and Legislations With Regards to a Person with Disabilities

The world celebrates December 3 as International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). This day is also called World...

Follow us

The current COVID- 19 situation is putting healthcare systems all over the world to test as the number of cases reported is increasing day by day.

In understanding the various measures taken by the government in containing the pandemic, it becomes essential to analyze the legal framework and the statutory law relating to appropriate measures to be taken in a health emergency. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a complete lockdown of India for 21 days starting 25 March 2020 as a measure to contain the spread of the global pandemic.

Before this announcement, different state governments including DelhiMaharashtra, and Telangana had already announced state-wide regulations for the same reason. The decisions taken the state governments is by invoking the British-era legislation known as The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.

The enactment of The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897

The legislation owes its origin to the 1896 Bubonic plague epidemic of Bombay which began in September that year and gradually spread to other parts of the subcontinent and was a well- known event in the timeline of colonial India.

During this period, the society responded with panic and the extreme measures taken by the administration proved useless to control the situation. Queen Victoria addressed both the houses of the Parliament and stated that her government had taken the most stringent measures to deal with the situation. A week after Queen Victoria’s address, the Epidemic Diseases Bill was introduced in the Council of the Governor-General in India for the prevention of the spread of dangerous epidemic diseases.

The member who introduced it, John Woodburn, recognised that the powers mentioned in the Bill were extraordinary but necessary. He believed that people must “trust the discretion of the executive in the grave and critical circumstances.”

The vague wording of the legislation was criticised, but the government maintained that it was meant for the benefit of the local bodies who could apply the Act in the manner suited to their conditions. Thus there was an undertone of authoritarianism to the Act as the government expected the people to trust the administration and hence give it full discretion in case of an epidemic situation.

The Act also inheres the colonial assumption of the inferiority of the general public. The Act is deficient for three key reasons.

First, the law fails to define “dangerous”, “infectious”, or “contagious diseases”, let alone an “epidemic”. There is no elaboration in the Act on the extant rules and procedures for arriving at a benchmark to determine that a particular disease needs to be declared as an epidemic.

The second limitation is that the law contains no provisions on the sequestering and the sequencing required for dissemination of drugs/vaccines, and the quarantine measures and other preventive steps that need to be taken.

Third, there is no underlying delineation of the fundamental principles of human rights that need to be observed during the implementation of emergency measures in an epidemic. The Act emphasises only the powers of the central and state governments during the epidemic, but it does not describe the government’s duties in preventing and controlling the epidemic, nor does it explicitly state the rights of the citizens during the event of a significant disease outbreak.

The fact that we are controlling a 2020 pandemic using a law that was passed 123 years ago is alarming. The circumstances in which the country is both socially and economically is vastly different than what it was during the colonial period. We are now an informed democracy and vesting of too much power and discretion in the hands of the bureaucracy is dangerous in the current situation. The citizenry of the country is better informed due to various mediums such as the internet and social media. Once the pandemic situation comes under control, the law must be repealed and replaced by a more modern and comprehensive piece of legislation.


Libertatem.in is now on Telegram. Follow us for regular legal updates and judgements from the court. Follow us on Google News, InstagramLinkedInFacebook & Twitter. You can also subscribe for our Weekly Email Updates. You can also contribute stories like this and help us spread awareness for a better society. Submit Your Post Now.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest News

WhatsApp Emails Delhi HC Judge Asking Her Not To Hear the Plea Challenging New Privacy Policy

The Delhi High Court raised strong objection to an E-mail sent by WhatsApp asking a judge not to hear the plea which challenges its new privacy policy. Justice Pratibha Singh said that the e-mail that was withdrawn later was totally unwarranted as she was anyway going to recuse from hearing the plea which was filed by Rohilla Chaitanya who contends that the new privacy policy of WhatsApp provides 360-degree access to a customer’s virtual activity and is against the fundamental right of privacy.

TRP Scam Case: Bombay HC Extends Protection To Arnab Goswami and Other Employees Till the Next Hearing

On Friday, the Bombay High court extended the protection that was given, to Republic TV’s Editor in Chief Arnab Goswami and other employees of ARG Outlier Media Private Limited till January 29th in the alleged case of Television Rating Point manipulation. A status report was submitted by the police to the division bench of Justices S.S.Shinde and Manish Pitale by the Police on the ongoing case.

Plea Seeks FIR Against Maharashtra Minister Dhananjay Munde in Bombay HC for False Info

A plea has been filed in Bombay High Court seeking an FIR against Maharashtra minister Dhananjay Munde who is undergoing times of trouble due to his extra-marital affair. Recently, an FIR had been lodged against Munde by a woman, accusing him of raping her sister. Munde clarified that he was actually in a relationship with that woman and had two children. He accused the two women of blackmailing him.

Writ Petition for Compensation Accepted by Calcutta High Court 

Introduction The Petitioner Purna Ch. Biswas filed a Writ Petition with the complaint that their claims for a higher quantum of compensation have not yet...

No Members Could Be Disqualified Without Authorisation by Political Party: Gujarat High Court

Excerpt The dispute application no.7 of 2020 filed by respondent no.2 before designated authority. Thereafter the designated authority order dated 28.10.2020 disqualified the petitioner and...

Delhi High Court Directs Delhi Jal Board To Make Supply of Potable Drinking Water

The High Court of Delhi in the matter of Delhi Sainik Cooperation Housing Ltd. v. Union of India & Ors held that right to...

Punjab & Haryana High Court Orders Security To BJP Leader Alleged for Not Supporting Farmers Protest

The Order had come in the form of a Writ Petition filed by Tikshan Sood under Article 226 of the Constitution. The petition before...

Lahore High Court Outlaws Two-Finger Virginity Test

The Lahore High Court in Pakistan has outlawed the use and conduct of virginity tests, namely, the use of the “two-finger” virginity test and...

London Court Rejects Assange’s Extradition – What Happens Now? 

Earlier last week, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, sitting in the Westminster Magistrates’ Court denied the Government of the U.S.A.'s request to the U.K. to...

Calcutta High Court Decides in Favor of Contractor as He Accidentally Pays an Excessively High Amount

Introduction The present writ petition has been filed for a writ in the nature of mandamus commanding the Respondents to revoke the Petitioner’s offer as...

More Articles Like This

- Advertisement -