Epidemic Disease Act, 1897

It was decided at the Cabinet Secretary meeting that the states and the UTs should invoke the 1897 act in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

History of the Legislation

The legislation was enacted by the colonial government of Pre-Independence India in 1897. It was introduced in light of the 1890s bubonic plague outbreak in the Bombay Presidency. It was criticised as it had potential for abuse. The law allowed the colonial officers to forcefully segregate and evacuate people and demolish infected places.

Provisions of the Legislation

The act is aimed at preventing the spread of epidemic diseases. It has 4 sections. The section 2 of the act has the following provisions:

  • The state government can prescribe temporary regulations to the public/ a person/ a class of people in case it is convinced that the ordinary legal provisions are insufficient to deal with an epidemic outbreak.
  • The state government can prescribe regulations for:
  • Inspection of passengers (of train or otherwise)
  • Segregation (in hospitals/ temporary accommodation, etc.)

The section 3 of the act gives penalties for disobeying the regulations. The section 4 provides legal protection to the implementing officers.

Previous Cases of its Use

The act was previously invoked in certain cases:

  • Vadodara in Gujarat, 2018: declared the Khedkarmsiya village as cholera affected under this act.
  • Chandigarh, 2015: for dealing with malaria and dengue.
  • Pune, 2009: to tackle the swine flu outbreak, screening centres were opened and the disease was made notifiable.

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