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Legal Provisions and COVID-19 in India

The entire world today is in the grip of a deadly pandemic called COVID-19, the like of which had never happened or even thought of before. With the outbreak of this pandemic caused by Coronavirus, a lot of chaos can be witnessed globally. The deadly virus that originated from China has spread to the world with the blink of an eyes and has brought huge global destruction. Since the death toll is rising at an alarming rate, the panic amongst the general public is also increasing, which is making it more difficult for the government around the world to handle.

It is well-known fact that since we are yet to have any vaccine to cure COVID-19, we can only practice basic precautions as advised by the World Health Organization (WHO) to keep away from the virus. Self-isolation, being quarantined, maintaining social distancing, and practicing personal hygiene are the only ways as of now to prevent the spread of this virus.

We have already witnessed how COVID-19 has made the government of the most developed nation, helpless. It is high time for India as a country to understand the gravity of situation as with a population of over 1.3 billion, high rate of illiteracy, poor hygiene practiced by many, limited medical help – if we don’t follow the guidelines of WHO rigorously, the condition of India can turn out to be worse than that of Italy.

When the cases started rising in India as well, the Indian government tried its first card to combat the virus by announcing a one-day ‘Janta Curfew’ on 22nd March 2020, which was strictly adhered to quite an extent. Following the ‘Janta Curfew’, the Central Government announced a 21-day lockdown in the entire nation in an effort to fight against the Coronavirus. But people started taking the lockdown very lightly, as they were not staying quarantined; there were long lines outside shops because people started panic-buying, while there were a few who took the lockdown period as a vacation or a holiday to party.

Thus, it is being seen that some people don’t value their lives as well as their family’s lives and they keep aside the nation’s interests and roam around freely defying the repeated announcement to stay at home. There is therefore an urgent need to educate the people of India of the various laws related to COVID-19 and bring to limelight the consequences of breaking the rules of the lockdown.

Here are a few laws related to COVID-19 that should be known to all citizens of India.

A) Section 271 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860: – “Disobedience to quarantine rule.” This section clearly says that whosoever disobeys the quarantine rule shall be punished with imprisonment or fine or both.

B) Section 269 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860: – “Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life.” This section applies to those who negligently act to spread the virus. They shall be penalized with imprisonment or fine or both.

C) Section 270 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860: – “Malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life.” This provision governs those who know the consequence of their actions which will cause damage to society but still choose to do such an act. They shall be penalized.

D) The Epidemic Disease Act, 1897: – “Power to take special measures and prescribe regulations as a too dangerous epidemic disease.”

(1) When at any time the [State Government] is satisfied that [the State] or any part thereof is visited by, or threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease, the [State Government], if [it] thinks that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient for the purpose, may take, or require or empower any person to take, such measures and, by public notice, prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by the public or by any person or class of persons as [it] shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof, and may determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation if any) shall be defrayed.

(2) In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions, the [State Government] may take measures and prescribe regulations for

(b) The inspection of persons travelling by railway or otherwise, and the segregation, in hospital, temporary accommodation or otherwise, of persons suspected by the inspecting officer of being infected with any such disease.

[2A. Powers of Central Government: — When the Central Government is satisfied that India or any part thereof is visited by, or threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease and that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof, the Central Government may take measures and prescribe regulations for the inspection of any ship or vessel leaving or arriving at any port in 2 [the territories to which this Act extends] and for such detention thereof, or of any person intending to sail therein, or arriving thereby, as may be necessary.]

(3) Penalty: – The Penalty clause under this Act states that any person disobeying any regulation or order made under this Act shall be deemed to have committed an offense punishable under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).

(4) Protection to persons acting under Act: – Regarding the protection to persons acting under Act, the provision is that no suit or other legal proceedings shall lie against any person for anything done or in good faith intended to be done under this Act.

E) Section 188 of Indian Penal Code: – “Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code prescribes punishment for disobeying an order duly promulgated by a public servant.” The above-mentioned law is for those defaulters who disobey the orders of the public servants and roam around aimlessly during the lockdown.

F) Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code: – “Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) empowers the executive magistrate to prohibit the assembly of four or more people in an area. The most important preventive measure against Coronavirus is safeguarded by this section that restricts a gathering of people and thus in a way supports social distancing.

G) Section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955: – During this time of global crisis, the citizens need to know what counts as essential commodities and what items are to be avoided.

H) Schedule 1 of the Essential Services Act: – This Schedule provides a list of services in the category of essential that would be provided during the period of lockdown. The central government has allowed the flow of essential services during the lockdown thus it becomes extremely necessary for us to know what services are covered as essential in the act.

I) Disaster Management Act, 2005 & National Disaster Management Guidelines, 2008: These deal with the management of biological disasters.

While there is a whole list of laws related to COVID-19, we as responsible citizens need to realize that these laws are made for our betterment and if we realize the seriousness of the ongoing crisis there would be no need to implement these strict laws. The defaulters here are not just risking their lives, but also the lives of the innocent people of nation as a whole. We as a country are determined to win the war against COVID 19 and the bare minimum rquirement of this victory is adhering to the Government Instructions religiously.

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