The new coronavirus (COVID-19) prompted the Indian government to develop a public-health approach based on existing national laws and regulations. The government was forced to enact the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 due to the high incidence and prevalence of COVID-19. Quarantine enforcement under Sections 188, 269, 270, and 271 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, as well as Section 133 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, has been criticized. The potential and hazards of the 160-year-old Indian Penal Code, 1860, and the 123-year-old Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, in regulating the terrifying dimensions of novel COVID-19 were thoroughly examined. It finally led to Lockdowns-I across the country. The devastating COVID-19 epidemic was designated a disaster, judging it to be beyond the community’s coping capabilities and necessitating emergency measures. In epidemic-pandemic syndrome, it offered an unprecedented challenge to the public health system and apparatus, putting a slew of public health regulations to the test.

How is Covid-19 tackled by India?

India is the fifth-worst affected COVID-19 country in the world. To begin, COVID-19 is the country’s first epidemic to be addressed by legal institutions. To meet the problems faced by COVID-19, three major laws were enacted: the Disaster Management Act (2005), the Epidemic Diseases Act (1897), and the India Penal Code (1860).

The Disaster Management Act’s legislative goal is to “provide for the effective management of disasters.” The National Disaster Management Authority, which is chaired by the Prime Minister and operates as the apex body at the national level, sets guidelines for state bodies and is established by the Disaster Management Act. As a result, disaster management authorities at the state, district, and local levels were established.

The Central Government has the jurisdiction to make directives to any authority within India, regardless of the law, to aid in disaster relief efforts. The National and State Executive Committees were formed to assist the National and State Authorities, and they oversee implementing the National Authority’s policies and programs, as well as monitoring their implementation. Under the Disaster Management Act, a nationwide lockdown was implemented to ensure social separation and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The National Disaster Management Authority drafted the Guidelines on Biological Disaster Management in 2008. It defines biological disasters as scenarios that result in widespread disease, impairment, or death among humans, animals, and plants because of toxins or disease caused by live organisms or their products. Food, clean water, and minimum standards of cleanliness and sanitation are all guaranteed under the plan, with a special focus on the most vulnerable groups to enable and emancipate them to respond to and recover from the effects of the biological calamity.

The National Disaster Management Plan 2019 was created by the government to cope with “Biological and Public Health Emergency” in a broad sense. According to this plan of action, the state is responsible for assessing the risk of vulnerable and marginalized groups and incorporating adaptive measures into social protection systems for the vulnerable.

The Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 was enacted to better control the virus’s spread. The Act is divided into four sections. The State Government has the authority to enact special laws and regulations to inspect passengers on trains and those suspected of being infected by investigative officers. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s directives can be implemented under Section 2 of the Act. The government has the authority to check any ship coming or departing from any port, as well as detain anyone seeking to sail or enter the country.

After healthcare professionals were subjected to workplace violence, the President issued a new regulation, the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. Any attack against healthcare personnel and their property is a cognizable and non-bailable offense under the Act.

Kerala is the only state to have passed the “Kerala Epidemic Diseases Ordinance, 2020” by using legislative power under State List Entry 6 (Public Health and Sanitation). The Act’s goal is to harmonize and consolidate laws about epidemic illness control and prevention. The Kerala Government can devise additional measures and regulations to combat the virus under Section 4 of the Ordinance. The Ordinance gives the state government vast powers, such as restricting critical services, prohibiting public meetings or events, inspecting visitors to the state, securing the borders, and restricting transportation and the operations of both government and private offices.  The Ordinance authorizes a two-year imprisonment penalty with or without a fine of 10,000 Rupees.

State-specific public health legislation has been passed by several state governments. Tamil Nadu, for example, has enacted the “Tamil Nadu Public Health Act, 1939” to combat the infection. Maharashtra has passed the “Maharashtra COVID-19 Regulations, 2020,” which directs all government and private hospitals to provide separate places and screening processes to identify cases, medical officers, and district administrations to work in coordination with state-integrated diseases surveillance program offices, and no person, institution, or organization can disseminate any infectious disease. The Delhi Government has passed Delhi Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020 which is similar to the Maharashtra regulations.


To address the virus’s challenges, a new, advanced, and powerful epidemic law should be drafted. A new law should be drafted that establishes a nodal authority that is represented by both the center and the state and is responsible for planning and implementing the necessary actions such as isolation, quarantine, surveillance, testing, and so on. The Act shall provide the states with sufficient authority and powers to develop and implement actions at the district, block, and gram panchayat levels. The Act should also include provisions for financial support to local governments, farmers, healthcare providers, businesses, and vulnerable groups, as well as details on how money is allocated to various sectors of society. In the event of a violation of a council’s direction or order, the Act should include both civil and criminal penalties. The act should also handle migratory workers, food availability, access to statutory minimum relief, and securing daily wage laborers’ livelihoods.

A coronavirus outbreak, for example, necessitates unusual measures and actions. Only when the government is transparent and accountable can the public have faith in it. India has an excessive number of laws and acts. It is pointless to pass legislation if it is not enforced. If a new law is enacted to address the pandemic’s impacts, it must be efficiently implemented and carried out to accomplish the desired result.

This article is written by Shrey Hasija student of 1st-year LLB at Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, GGSIPU.



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