Updated: Jun 8
The colonial-era act British empowers the state government to take special measure and prescribe regulations in an epidemic. It also defines penalties for disobedience of these regulations and provisions for immunity for action taken under the act in good faith. The EDA, Bill was introduced in 1897, during an outbreak of bubonic plague.
Since, the existing laws were in insufficient to deal with various matters such as overcrowded houses, neglected latrines and huts, accumulations of filth, insanitary cowsheds, and stables and the disposal of house refuse.
To provide for the better prevention of the spread of dangerous episode diseases. Under the act, temporary provision or regulation can be made to be observed by the public to tackle or prevent the outbreak of diseases.
POWER TO CENTRAL GOVERNMENT
Section- 2A steps to prevent the spread of an epidemic. It allows the government to inspect any ship arriving or leaving any post and the power to detain any person intending to said or arriving in the country.
Health is a state(Schedule-VII, state List-II) but by invoking section- 2 of Epidemic Act, 1897 advisors and direction of the ministry of health and family welfare will be enforceable.
It allows the government to inspect any ship arriving or leaving any post and the power intending to sail or arriving in-country.
PENALTY FOR DISOBEDIENCE
Section-3 provides penalities for disobeying any regulations as under Act.
These are according to section- 188 of IPC ( disobedience to order delay promulgated by a public servant ).
Section-4 is given legal protection to the implementing officer acting under the act.
ENFORCEMENT OF THE ACT IN RECENT PAST-
Routinely enforced across the country for dealing with the outbreak of diseases such as swine flu, dengue.
For ex- In 2009, to tackle the swine flu outbreak in Pune. Section-2 powers were used to open screening centres in civic hospitals across the city, and swine flu was declared a notifiable disease.
The bill had called for special power for government of India provinces and local bodies, including to check passengers of trains and sea routes.
There were also concerned that several countries were allowed by the situations in India. As Russia had speculated that the whole subcontinent might be infected due to plague.
RECENT AMENDMENT IN THE EPA, 1897
On 22 April 2020, The central government has promulgated an ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act,1897 to make attacks on doctors and health care workers a cognizable and non- bailable offence.
Members of the medical community, even as they continue to perform relentlessly round the clock and save human lives, have unfortunately become the most vulnerable victims as they have been perceived by some as carriers of the virus.
This has led to cases of their stigmatization and sometimes worse, act of unwarranted violence and harassment.
Such a situation tends to hamper the medical community from performing their optimum best and maintaining their morale, which is a critical need in this hour of national health crisis. While health care service personnel are duty-bound to serve without discrimination, the cooperation and support from society is a fundamental need for them to perform their duties with confidence.
In a response the cabinet has amended the Epidemic disease ordinance,2020 to protect the medical community. Whoever commits or abets the commitment of violence against health care service personal shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of 3 months to 5 years, and with fine of Rs- 50,000 to Rs- 2,00,000 In case of causing serious hurt, imprisonment shall be a term of 6 months to 7 years and fine of Rs- 1 to 5,00,000.
As per the ordinance, the investigation into the incidents of attacks on doctors and healthcare workers has to be conducted by a senior inspector and be completed within 30 days. The ordinance also provides that the court shall presume that such person has committed such offence unless the contrary is proved. The ordinance states that in case of damages to vehicle or clinics of doctors or healthcare workers, the perpetrators would have to pay double the market cost of the damaged asset as compensation. Upon failure to pay the compensation awarded, such amount shall be revenue under the Revenue Recovery Act, 1890.