An epidemic is a widespread occurrence of a disease in a community at a particular time. And so to deal with this kind of disease Epidemic Disease Act was enacted in the year 1897 by the British Parliament. This act was first enacted in Mumbai to deal with a bubonic plague in former British India. The act is for the restriction of epidemic by giving special powers to both Central and State Government to take certain action that is necessary for carrying out the restrictions to control and prevent the spread of the disease. The Act, merely comprise of four sections and is the shortest among the India.
Power to Take Special Measures and Prescribe Regulation as to Dangerous Epidemic Disease:
Section-2 of the Act empowers the state government to take any such measures and prescribe regulation of the eruption of epidemic disease. If State Government thinks fit that the ordinary provisions of law for the time being enforced is insufficient for the purpose of the epidemic, then the government may take or empower any person to take such measures, and by public notice, order such temporary adjustment to be observed by the society itself as it shall deemed necessary to prevent the eruption of such disease or spread thereof, and they should also determine such methods and by whom any express sustain shall be defrayed.
Power of The Central Government:
Section-2A of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 deal with the power of the Central Government. This section provides the power to central government, that if India or any part is threatened with such eruption of any epidemic disease and the ordinary provision of law prevailing is insufficient to prevent the eruption the spread of the disease, the Central Government may take such required measures as think fit and order such temporary adjustment for the examination of any ship or vessel leaving or arriving at any port in India [to the territories to which this Act may extent] and for such determination thereof, any such person considered to sail therein, or arriving thereby, as may be required.
Section-3 of the Act deals with the punishment for disobeying any order passed under this Act. The section clearly interprets that the punishment for the offence if committed against this Act is punishable under Section-188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code.
Section-188 of Indian Penal code follows: “Whoever, knowing that, by an order promulgated by a public servant lawfully empowered to promulgate such order, he is directed to abstain from a certain act, or to take certain order with certain property in his possession or under his management, disobeys such direction, shall, if such disobedience causes or tends to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury, or risk of obstruction, annoyance or injury, to any persons lawfully employed, be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both; and if such disobedience causes or tends to cause danger to human life, health or safety, or causes or tends to cause a riot or affray, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.”
Protection to Person Acting Under Act:
Section-4 of the Act deals with the protection for the public servant acting under the act and it also states that no suit or other legal proceeding shall lie against the public servant for acting or done in good faith intended to be done under this Act.
Other Than Section-188 of IPC Which Sections Also Attracted in Such Scenarios:
In addition to section-188, certain other provisions of the IPC relating to public health and safety may also be attracted during the outbreak of an epidemic disease.
~Section-269 of the IPC prescribes punishment for negligent actions which may spread infection of any disease, thereby threatening human life, punishable with imprisonment which may extend to six months and/or fine.
~However, pertinently, Section 270 is a more serious offence than the one listed under Section 269. It imposes punishment for malignant actions which may spread any disease dangerous to life. The punishment under this section may extend to two years’ imprisonment and/or fine.
~Section 271 of the IPC prescribes punishment for disobeying quarantine rule. Such punishment may extend to six months’ imprisonment and/or fine.