India has witnessed many large outbreaks of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases in the recent past. The outbreak of a cholera epidemic due to the O139 strain in 1992, that of plague in Surat in 1994, the large-scale spread of chikungunya and dengue fever, and that of avian influenza (H5N1) and pandemic H1N1 influenza were some which caused widespread havoc. The resurgence of diphtheria and the outbreaks caused by the Nipah, Chandipura, and Japanese encephalitis viruses and Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever also posed a threat to the country’s public health in the last decade. The emergence of drug-resistant tuberculosis and malaria and New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM-1) – resistant organisms is also a matter of concern for the country. As in any other country, diseases with the potential for international spread, such as the Ebola virus disease and Zika virus, also pose threats to the public health security of India.

Legal frameworks are important during emergency situations as they can delineate the scope of the government’s responses to public health emergencies and also, the duties and rights of citizens. In recent years, many states in India have invoked various provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 to force H1N1-affected persons to be segregated and get themselves treated at recognized hospitals, to direct private hospitals to set up isolation treatment facilities, and to notify cases of dengue and H1N1 (2, 3, 4). In this context, it is important to critically evaluate the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897, its relevance in the current context, and whether it has kept up with the recent global developments in disease surveillance, disease control, and rights perspective.

This review attempts to describe the Act, its historical aspects, and key elements, the current status of the Act. Further, it aims to identify its limitations and lacunae and describe disease surveillance and response in the country. Finally, it sets out to examine key legislations and the sections of these which are relevant for updating Acts or reforms in this area and for proposing recommendations.


The Epidemic illnesses Act changed into enforced in 1897 to cope with the plague epidemic that broke out within the presidency city of Bombay. The act changed into enacted for higher prevention of epidemic diseases consisting of Cholera, Plague, and many others. The plague took thousands and thousands of lives and the British authorities have been tasked with the difficult process of containing the ailment to spread in addition, so the local government was given special powers through the then governor widespread Victor Bruce to take actions which will manage the epidemic.

The result turned into that the chairman Bombay Plague committee Brigadier preferred W.F. Gamache together with different individuals made a regulation towards folks who had been fleeing from their municipal limits with a view to save you the disease from spreading within the complete British colony. The century-old law has once more come into use for stopping the spread of COVID 19.

Legal Provisions

Electricity to take unique measures and prescribe guidelines as to dangerous epidemic disorder

 while at any time the [State Government] is happy that [the State] or any element thereof is visited by means of, or threatened with, a deadly disease of any risky epidemic disease, the [State Government], if [it] thinks that the regular provisions of the regulation in the meanwhile in pressure are inadequate for the cause, may additionally take, or require or empower any character to take, such measures and, via a public notice, prescribe such brief guidelines be discovered by means of the general public or by using any man or woman or elegance of humans as [it] shall deem necessary to save you the outbreak of such disorder or the spread thereof, and may decide in what way and by whom any prices incurred (which includes repayment if any) will be defrayed.

 Powers of significant government

While the principal government is satisfied that India or any element thereof is visited by way of, or threatened with, an outbreak of any risky epidemic ailment and that the ordinary provisions of the law in the meantime in force are insufficient to prevent the outbreak of such sickness or the spread thereof, the relevant government may take measures and prescribe policies for the inspection of any deliver or vessel leaving or arriving at any port and for such detention thereof, or of any person proceeding to sail therein, or arriving thereby, as can be important.



Any individual disobeying any regulation or order made beneath this Act will be deemed to have devoted an offense punishable underneath section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (forty-five of 1860).

Four. Safety to folks acting under Act.

No healthy or other prisons intending shall lie in opposition to any individual for something achieved or in properly faith intended to be accomplished underneath this Act.

Amendment of the Law

Recently, in many locations in India the fitness care workers had been attacked by means of many perpetrators. After such acts of attacks on corona warriors, the principal authorities introduced an ordinance on twenty-second April to amend the Epidemic illnesses Act 1897 and to punish such perpetrators who attacked the warriors.  This flow of presidency is indeed welcomed and is praiseworthy.

The government which will defend corona warriors, health workers, and their property permitted the promulgation of an ordinance on twenty-second April to amend the Epidemic illnesses Act 1897. The change makes acts of violence, in opposition to medical experts and a different scientific group of workers) as a cognizable and non-bailable offense.

Now fee of offense in opposition to medical examiners will be punished with imprisonment of the time period for three months to five years and with quality of fifty thousand Rupees to 20 thousand Rupees. In case, grievous harm is caused then the imprisonment will be for the term of 6 months to 7 years and with nice of one lac to five lakhs. Furthermore, the culprit may also pay an amount as a reimbursement to the sufferer, and double the marketplace rate will be charged for the healing of damaged finished to the assets of the sufferer.

Limitations to the Act

His archaic act became promulgated 123 years ago. In this era of changing priorities, the act suffers from many boundaries. Firstly, the definition of dangerous epidemic sickness isn’t always given in the act. Moreover, the criteria to decide whether a disorder is risky or not is also now not given.  It can not be said that whether or not the definition of dangerous is based totally on the magnitude of the population affected, the seriousness of the problem, or the good-sized of the sickness.

Secondly, the act is merely regulatory in nature and focuses handiest on the powers of government. The act does now not describe the responsibilities of the government and the rights of residents. No provision of the act concentrates on pastimes, desires, needs, healthful life-style of people. Additionally, the act does not provide the situations underneath which liberty and privateness of humans can be compromised, for this reason, there are probabilities of misuse of the act. Thirdly, the act can be said to be only a file on paper.

The act affords the most effective quarantine measures and does no longer provide scientific measures that can be taken to save you the spread of the disease. Fourthly, the act says any individual may be empowered to take some degree but in present days we’ve higher health care structures. Incorporated disorder Surveillance devices (IDSP), District leader scientific officers, every district with a surveillance unit, and a fast response group (RRT), area people, various fitness care clinical officials had been assigned the challenge for the care of the fitness machine. Hence the act saying any character makes no feel. It has to specify who and what. Fifthly, the act wishes some adjustments in the context of the present situation.


There is a want to bolster felony frameworks to prevent and manage the access, spread, and existence of communicable illnesses in India. The Epidemic illnesses Act 1897, which is extra than a century antique, has the most important limitations in relation to tackling the emergence and re-emergence of communicable illnesses inside us of a, especially inside the changing public health context. Over the years, many states have formulated their own public fitness laws and a few have amended the provisions of their epidemic ailment Acts. However, these Acts vary in excellent and content material. There may be a want for an incorporated, complete, actionable, and applicable legal provision for the control of outbreaks in India that should be articulated in a rights-based, people-focused, and public fitness-orientated way. The draft countrywide health bill 2009 is one such proposed legislation, but it’s miles still in its long gestation length and its fate is unpredictable.

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