Overhauling of Epidemic Disease Act, 1897: In the Context of COVID 19

 In this period of non-communicable sicknesses, transmittable illnesses contribute 30% of infection trouble in India. Many epidemics happen every year and we neglect to react and contain a large portion of them. Apart from different natural and behavioral general wellbeing mediations, we have to intently take a closer look at the basic intercession, that is, the legitimate structure to audit wellbeing framework readiness. Although India has various lawful components to help general wellbeing measures in a pandemic circumstance, they are not being tended to under a solitary enactment.

The Epidemic Act 1897 is an extremely old obtuse act that needs a considerable update to counter the rising weight of irresistible illnesses both new and old. Issues like the meaning of epidemic infection, regional limits, morals, and basic freedoms standards, strengthening of authorities, discipline, and so on, need more thoughts and warrant a relook.


Recently, different states in India have summoned enactment to check this threat brought about by a novel covid.  It appears to be that the Epidemic Disease Act of 1897 is a bygone enactment as it appeared 123 years back. With the adjustment in time, it is imbecile of us to even now be subject to this Act. During this pivotal emergency, a need is felt for solidified, all-encompassing, and critical legitimate arrangements to check the flare-up in India.

India is seeing epidemiological progress. In the 21st century, the nation is confronting a double weight of illnesses. While battling to battle the weight of transmittable infections, our wellbeing framework is tested to address ongoing non-communicable sicknesses. The weight and range of irresistible infections are colossal in India. They contribute about 30% of sickness trouble in India. Epidemics of transferable sicknesses force a substantial monetary weight on people, families, networks, and country on the loose. We are dumbfounded while dealing with flu pandemics and battle to contain them.

Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897[ii]

According to the counsel of the Health Ministry, the Union Government has summoned the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. This Act came into power on fourth February 1897 when a Bubonic Plague had been found in Mandavi (at that point a piece of Bombay, however now in Gujarat) during the nineteenth century, which disturbed day by day lives and caused a few deaths. In this way, to forestall its spreading, the then Parliament established the said Act, comprising of four areas. Critical areas of this Act are:

Section 2 expresses that the Government is engaged to take solid activities and specify headings if the State is in danger of any perilous illness or the standard laws are inadequate for the reason. Section 2A gives the Government the ability to make arrangements for the review of any boats or vessels showing up or leaving ports and confinement of an individual who expects to cruise or has cruised.

Section 3 relates with the structure which meets the Government with the ability to force punishments on the individuals who defy any guidelines endorsed by the concerned authority under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (“IPC”). Section 188 as characterized under Chapter X of IPC, “Of Contempt of the Lawful Authority of Public Servants” expresses that if any insubordination is brought about by an individual intentionally, prompting deterrent, disturbance, damage, or injury to some other individual then such individual will be rebuffed under this section. The First Schedule of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, talks about this offense as cognizable just as bailable, and can be brought to court by a Magistrate.

Section 4 of a similar Act gives security to the individual against any suit or lawful procedures for anything finished with a true blue goal under this Act.

Shortcomings of the Act[iii]

Epidemic Act 1897 is an ancient structure, 123-year-old. The extremely old Act throughout the years has amassed a lot of defects which can be credited to the changing needs in the general wellbeing crisis the board. Pandemic Act 1897 is quiet on the meaning of risky pestilence illness. Besides, it being an extremely old act, the regional limits of the demonstration needs a relook.

Aside from the confinement or isolate measure the demonstration is mum on the lawful system of accessibility and circulation of antibody and medications and execution of reaction measures. There is no unequivocal reference relating to the moral angles or basic freedoms standards during a reaction to a plague. The discipline for infringement of guidelines under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code additionally warrants an amendment.

This Act had been figured 123 years back, and remembering the progressions that occurred during the ongoing years, it comprises of a few restrictions. Steadily, chief components liable for the mushrooming of sicknesses have additionally been altered. For instance, these days, we want to go via air rather than a boat. The restriction that emerges here is that it centers around going by boat or vessels and railroads as opposed to planes.

As the Act was approved by the Britishers to control the circumstance in Bombay, it could be questioned that their genuine thought process behind the institution of the said Act was to secure and hold onto public social affairs drove by the revolutionist.

This Act needs a ton of control likewise with time, most epidemiological ideas have changed, including the prudent steps attempted to check pestilence sicknesses. Plus, this Act isn’t incongruity with the ongoing logical progressions that we use today to react to these sicknesses.

For example, it demands the separation or isolate of patients at home, be that as it may, is held on the logical techniques used to check episodes, for example, inoculation, immunization, medicine, government reaction towards the infection, setting up a lab, and so on it zeros in additional on the antipathy for the spread of the infection instead of to extirpate it.

Hence, we need an Act that centers more around logical seeing as opposed to managing managerial and policing acts.

The Act alludes to an “epidemic”, yet doesn’t characterize it. Rules are not referenced to decide how an infection is considered “risky” under the said Act and who chooses whether a sickness is hazardous or not.

 However, the difficulty perseveres; the said Act neither endorses a circumstance as when it ought to be summoned nor does it disclose to us how to deal with a situation like the current one.

It just engages the Government to pass any rules or enactment as it regards fit. Likewise, it doesn’t give any bearings to the Government for the association of councils or any exceptional position which can speak to both Central and State Government and can follow up on its own in a preventive way without sitting tight for the Government’s endorsement.

This Act doesn’t give any help and monetary help to the overall population, to support their occupation during an emergency like the current one. Further, it can force just criminal punishments for its infringement as opposed to forcing both crook and common punishments. It additionally doesn’t secure the medical services laborers, police faculty, or some other individual from provocation, misuse, or any injury brought about by playing out their obligations.

In particular, it doesn’t secure residents’ essential rights, for example, the right to the protection which includes pride, individual flexibility, and freedom. Even though there are some sensible limitations on essential rights regarding public interest, the enactment doesn’t give assurance against the maltreatment of protection directly by the State[iv].

Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020[v]

After the approval of the announcement of an Ordinance by the Union Government, to ensure the medical caretakers, specialists, and other medical services administration faculty and their property from assaults and provocation during scourges, the President had authorized this Ordinance, which covers the impediments and blemishes in the Act.

This Ordinance improves the forces of the Union to forestall such a pestilence and tries to offer security to clinical professionals.

Major arrangements of this law are:

Section 1A (a), which characterizes “act of violence” to comprise of the accompanying demonstrations submitted against medical care administration staff: the provocation of such staff and disallowing him from releasing his obligations, mischief, injury, or peril to their life, discouraging him in releasing his obligations, harm to any property of such workforce.

The Ordinance characterizes the “medical care administration workforce” as the staff who are in danger of being affected by a pandemic while doing their obligations. They comprise of:

any open medical services workforce, some other individual approved under the said demonstration to turn away the pestilence, any individual proclaimed by the administration as such staff.

It likewise extends the intensity of the Union to screen any transport, train, boat, or plane, showing up or leaving from any station, port, or aerodrome and confine any individual aiming to go by any of these methods.

For the assurance of the Healthcare administrationfaculty and their property, arrangements have been made against the individuals who submit or abet any demonstration against the medical care network, culpable with detainment between a quarter of a year and five years alongside a fine going somewhere in the range of Rs.50,000 and Rs.2,00,000. If an act causes unfortunate hurt, at that point detainment will be between a half year and seven years alongside a fine running somewhere in the range of Rs.1,00,000 and Rs.5,00,000.

Further, an arrangement has been made for the time-bound examination which is to be done within 30 days after the enrollment of the First Information Report, and the request must be finished within one year from that point. Disappointment is such manner must be recorded, and a most extreme extra time of a half year can be conceded for the equivalent.


To fight such an epidemic nation has altered this Act to protect life just as the property of the wellbeing administration laborers. Shockingly, before this statute, no enactment existed to secure the life and property of the medical services network during the pandemic. Although each State has altered this Act according to their necessities and has their Acts to fight with the current situation.

There was a requirement for the single establishment in which all the arrangements are collected so its execution can be checked. It is considered that the death of this Ordinance would carry positive changes to the advantage of the medical services network, empowering them to play out their obligations with no impediment.


  • Q1) What is the government’s role in dealing with an epidemic in a state?
  • Q2) What are actions that can be taken by the government in case of defying any of the provisions of the epidemic act?
  • Q3) Whether situations like covid are covered in this act?
  • Q4) What are the shortcomings of the act?


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