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India needs a Covid-19 Law

The novel Coronavirus declared as a pandemic by WHO has brought the world to a standstill. Worldwide lockdown and isolation are being carried out to curb this virus from spreading. Precautions in such serious times must be followed otherwise we may have to face bizarre consequences in the coming days.

India, like other countries, is having a nationwide lockdown. Though the lockdown has proved to be a boon in curbing the spread of the coronavirus at the same time it has been a bane for the economy and the vulnerable class in the country as well.

The current laws dealing with COVID-19 are Disaster Management Act of 2005, Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897, The Indian Penal Code of 1860, and the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973.

Disaster Management Act provides for effective management of man-made and natural disasters which may result in substantial loss of life or human suffering. Under Section 3 of the Act National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was set up under the leadership of the Prime Minister, and the National Executive Committee (NEC) formed under Section 8 was chaired by the Home Secretary. These two bodies issued orders to the Union Ministry, State governments and authorities to take effective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Guidelines illustrating the closure of establishments and suspension of services were also laid out. The Union government is communicating seamlessly with the States by invoking this Act. However, the main question is whether this Act was originally considered to be sufficient for a pandemic or not?

Next, we have the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897. It is 123-year-old legislation, this fact suggests that this Act lacks requisites and effectiveness in providing proper and apt solutions to the current 21st-century problems.

The India Penal Code, 1860, and The Criminal Procedure Code,1973 have to be analyzed together. Many states in the nation have imposed Section 144 of Cr.P.C. i.e. imposition of curfew and restriction of public gatherings. If the operation of this section is violated then this violation is punishable under Section 188 of the IPC with imprisonment for a term ranging from one to six months or with fine or with both imprisonment and fine. Further, the conviction under this section does not require the offender’s intention to produce harm or contemplate his disobedience as likely to produce harm. Mere knowledge about all this is sufficient ground for conviction of the person.

Having a look at these Acts we see that not even a single one of them is having a deterrent effect for the offenders or offering any legal help to the needy. Looking globally we see that the U.K. enacted Coronavirus Act, 2020 which deals with a large number of issues connected with COVID-19 like regarding the education sector, for the court proceedings, the social distancing norms, etc. Similarly, Singapore has also passed legislation called ‘Infectious Diseases Regulations, 2020.’ This tells about how the individuals who are at risk can be sent to the accommodation facility specified by the government.

We need comprehensive legislation for Covid-19 covering all the issues and precautions connected with, which are lacking in the present legislation. These are tough times that shall pass but till then an effective legal mechanism and the public support as well require to combat it.


Tarandeep Kaur is currently studying law at Guru Nanak Dev University, Regional Campus, Jalandhar.

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EDITED BY: Swati Tolambia

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