With lockdown in 75 districts, what you need to know about the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act

Amid the rising coronavirus cases in India, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Telangana, Bihar and some other states rolled out the Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations under the ambit of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to curb the spread of coronavirus.

With lockdown in 75 districts, what you need to know about the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act

Amid the rising coronavirus cases in India, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Telangana, Bihar and some other states rolled out the Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations under the ambit of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The governments dfecided to roll out these regulations as the number of coornavirus cases jumped to 396 on Sunday, with 81 fresh cases only on Sunday. The Centre on Sunday issued advisory to different state governments directing to issue appropriate orders to put 75 districts under lockdown.

History of the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act

The Act was first introduced by British government to tackle the epidemic of plague that had spread in the erstwhile Bombay Presidency in the 1890s. The Act gave power to authorities at that time to search suspected plague cases in homes and among passengers, with forcible segregations, evacuations, and demolitions of infected places.

Provisions of the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act

The Act consists of four sections and it aims to provide “for the better prevention of the spread of Dangerous Epidemic Diseases”. The Section 2 of the Act empowers state governments/UTs to take special measures and formulate regulations for containing the outbreak.

It reads:

“Power to take special measures and prescribe regulations as to dangerous epidemic disease.—

(1) When at any time the State Government 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.

(2) In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions, the State Government may take measures and prescribe regulations for—

(b) the inspection of persons travelling by railway or otherwise, and the segregation, in hospital, temporary accommodation or otherwise, of persons suspected by the inspecting officer of being infected with any such disease.”

Section 3 provides penalties for disobeying any regulation or order made under the Act. These are according to Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).

Section 4 gives legal protection to the implementing officers acting under the Act.