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Law Commission Report on Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897

Why is it in the news?

  • The 22nd Law Commission of India presented Report No. 286 titled “A Comprehensive Review of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897” to the Government of India.
  • This report addresses concerns regarding the effectiveness and adequacy of the Epidemic Diseases Act (EDA) of 1897, particularly in light of modern challenges and emerging infectious diseases.
About Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 (EDA)

·       The EDA was enacted during the pre-independence era primarily to tackle the outbreak of plague.

·       It empowers the central government to prescribe regulations for the prevention and control of the spread of dangerous epidemic diseases.

·       The Act includes provisions for detaining individuals or vessels from international shores if they are suspected of carrying contagious diseases.

·       Disobedience of regulations under the Act is considered an offence punishable under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.

·       Section 4 of the Act provides immunity from legal proceedings for actions taken in good faith under the Act.

Highlights of the Law Commission Report

  • The report identifies shortcomings in the existing legislation concerning the management and containment of future epidemics, considering the emergence of new infectious diseases and novel strains of pathogens.
  • Recommendations from the report include the creation of an Epidemic Plan and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to address future epidemic outbreaks effectively.
  • The Epidemic Plan is envisioned to encompass strategies and protocols for quarantine, isolation, and lockdown measures, ensuring fair implementation while safeguarding citizens’ fundamental rights.
  • The SOP is proposed to ensure a coordinated response to epidemics, defining roles and powers during public health emergencies. The SOP outlines three stages of infectious disease spread:

1) In the first stage, states are empowered to take necessary measures aligned with the Epidemic Plan.

2) During the second stage of inter-state spread, the Central government should frame regulations, and states must comply with these regulations.

3) In situations of extreme threat from infectious diseases (third stage), similar recommendations as the second stage apply, with the Central government taking the lead in regulatory actions.

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