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EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW: THE EPIDEMIC DISEASES AMENDMENT BILL, 2020

Author: Jothi Poorna S, II year of B.B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Bharath Institute of Law


Introduction

The world is highly affected by the Covid - 19 pandemic. Pandemic is nothing but an epidemic which is wide spread throughout the world. India’s first Covid -19 positive patient was confirmed on January, 2020 in Kerala from then on we can see a large increase in the amount of Covid -19 patients all over the Country.


Due to rapid spread of Covid - 19 the India government announced total lockdown all over the country. Schools, colleges, theaters, malls, small scale to large scale industries everything was shut, people are only allowed to come out to buy essential commodities and in case of medical emergencies. Police, cleaners, health care personnel are the ones who worked on frontlines tirelessly to bring the Covid - 19 situation under control unfortunately many had lost their lives while they were in duty due to Covid -19, they are commonly known as Covid warriors. In this Covid -19 period many people behaved violently against the health care personnel, cleaners as they travel to and fro, believing they are the sole reason for the spread of Covid -19.


The first Epidemic Diseases Act was introduced on 1897 due to bubonic plague which struck Mumbai later this Act has been used to tackle diseases like swine flu, cholera, malaria and dengue. This 123 year old legislation was amended on 2020 the main reason for this amendment is to prevent the violence and brutal treatment against Covid warriors.


Provision under Epidemic Diseases Act 1897[1]

1. The common existing laws are not sufficient when it comes to deadly diseases so it is important to have these laws for better approach towards handling dangerous situation, this Act provides temporary provisions for the welfare of public to prevent the outbreak of disease.

2. The primary provisions under this Act are powers to central government, punishments for disobedience and legal protection for the officers who are in duty.


3. Section 2A of the Act gives power to Central government to take necessary steps to prevent the spread of diseases as the ordinary provision of the law is insufficient.


4. Section 3 of the Act deals with the penalty, if any person disobeys the regulation given by the government he is punished under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.


5. Section 4 of the Act deals with protection for person who acts in good faith. No one can sue these persons under the Act.


Violence against frontline workers [2]

1. Many health care and frontline workers faced physical violence while collecting samples and doing inspections for Covid -19 but there was no proper law to prevent it.


2. In Chennai twenty people opposed the burial of a neurosurgeon Simon Hercules who was affected by Covid -19 on duty, the mob violent behaviour is due to fear that they will get affected by the same. In Telangana junior doctors were violently attacked on Covid -19 duties.


3. These inhuman behaviours against the health care personnel enraged the Medical Association of India so they demanded a Central law to prevent further violence against the health care personnel.


4. Violence against the frontline workers is taken as a serious issue and the government introduced amended bill to send across the message of zero tolerance to any form of violence against them. The 123 years old legislation was amended by the Epidemic Diseases Amendment Ordinance, 2020.


Key points of Epidemic Diseases Bill, 2020 [3]

1. The bill provides provisions for the frontline workers (health care personnel and any other person involved in prevention of the diseases outbreak) who are at risk of contracting the diseases.


2. If any health care workers suffer damage to their property due to the epidemic they can invoke this Act.


3. The compensation payable for the damage of property to the victim will be twice the amount of market value.


4. If the convicted person failed to pay the amount it will be recovered in arrears.


5. Any form of violence against the health care personnel who are treating Covid – 19 patients is considered as a non bailable offence with penalty up to five lakhs and imprisonment shall be for a term of six months to seven years.


6. The trial of the offences against frontline workers must be concluded with one year.


Conclusion

1. In this tough time it is important to follow the government rules and regulation as it is easy to contract Covid -19.


2. Many front line workers (police, cleaners, health care personnel) put their life at line, left their family and working day and night only for the welfare of people and to bring situation under control.


3. Violence against the Covid warriors is unfair they are the ones who should be respected for doing their duty and saving thousands of lives without any expectation and for trying their best with available resources.


4. A big thank you for the Covid warriors for tackling the situation effectively.