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Law and COVID-19

Covid-19 a deadly virus which got detected in Wuhan, China which is in Hubei province at the end of December 2019, It came to the knowledge of W.H.O[1] in January and it was declared as a Global Pandemic by W.H.O on 30th of January 2020. According to Chinese scientists[2], the virus originated in the vet market in a bat and somehow hopped to another animal, possibly the pangolin which then passed it on to a human and now the virus is spreading from person to person without any animal intermediary. The first case of the coronavirus in India came to light on 30th January in the state of Kerala.

Looking at the rate of spread of the virus, Honorable Prime Minister of India Mr Narendra Modi declared nationwide lockdown on 25th March 2020 for 21 days till April 15th in order to contain the spread of the deadly virus in India.

Laws Implemented During Quarantine 

Quarantine[3] is a state of isolation in which the people who get infected by the virus are placed in an isolation cell for a fixed period of time to contain the further spread of such disease. Covid-19 is highly contagious therefore incoming travellers from different countries with corona spread are being tested before allowing them to move out of the airport, and if anyone is found with symptoms are sent in an isolation cell for 14 days. 

But there are some people who ran away from screening, medical test and hide their travel history and did not follow the rules prescribed for self-isolation, these are very irresponsible acts of these people, people are not aware of various laws that are implemented under which they can be prosecuted for their actions that are causing harm to the health and safety of other people.

 In India for disobeying quarantine rule it is a punishable act under section 271 of the IPC, 1860 with imprisonment which may extend up to 6 months or fine or with both. Failing to take required precautions even after knowing the possibility of the spread of such disease is punishable under section 269 and 270 of the IPC. 

Section 269 says Whoever unlawfully or negligently does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both, section 270 says Whoever malignantly does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with bothAmid the lockdown seeing the alarming rise in cases many states invoked section 144 of CRPC, 1973[4] which prohibits any presence or gathering of people in public places to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Epidemic Disease Act, 1897

The Epidemic Disease Act 1897 is the law which was made for containing the spread of any virus which cannot be controlled by already functioning laws and gives special powers to the government to establish required law by making a government’s official announcement. This act has been used to control Cholera in Gujarat in 2015, to contain the spread[5] of dengue and malaria in Chandigarh and to battle with swine flu in Pune in 2009. Currently starting from march it has been implemented across the whole nation to prevent the spread of the deadly virus Covid-19. Section 188 of IPC, 1860 is a section laid down under the Epidemic Disease Act 1897 it basically lays down penalties for those people who disobey any order passed by a government official even after knowing about that order and it is not necessary that the offender intends to produce harm or contemplate his disobedience which would result in harm, it is sufficient enough to punish If he/she knows the order which they disobey and there disobedience is likely to produce harm.

Disaster Management Act, 2005

The Disaster Management Act 2005 has been invoked for the first time in India in this pandemic. This management[6] was made in 2005 after the Tsunami in 2004 killing nearly 10,000 people at the eastern coast of India. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) issued the guidelines for the Lock-down which included the opening of only those shops which provide essentials like vegetable and fruit vendors, grocery shops, health care etc. Section 6 and 10 of the Disaster Management Act gives power to NDMA to prepare for the disaster and implement the laws and rules required.

Section 6 of the act says the National Authority shall have the responsibility for laying down the policies, plans and guidelines for disaster management for ensuring a timely and effective response to a disaster. Section 10 of the act says The National Executive Committee shall assist the National Authority in the discharge of its functions and have the responsibility for implementing the policies and plans of the National Authority and ensure the compliance of directions issued by the Central Government for the purpose of disaster management in the country.

Relaxation in Labour Laws due to Covid-19 Lock-Down

Due to the ongoing national lock-down many investors have been stuck in the web of these labour laws, business and economic activities have been slowed down due to the lock-down and because of which labour welfare has been affected. Therefore some changes are made in the labour laws to overcome the difficulties being faced by the investors and industrialists.

The changes made will affect both the currently existing business and the new industries going to set up. The major changes being made are:-

  1. The employers are exempted of any penalties in case of violation of labour laws
  2. Some of the rights of workers have been exempted like knowing the details of their health, better work environment etc.
  3. Employers can now increase the working hours of the labour from 8 hours to 12 hours and are also allowed up to 72 hours a week in overtime according to the will of workers.
  4. Many of the provisions of the Industrial Disputes act, 1947 are now exempted for industrial units.
  1. Organizers working with less than 50 workers can work without a license under the Contract Labour Act, 1970
  2. Organizations will be able to keep workers in service according to their convenience and the labour court or labour department cannot interfere against any action of the industries.
  1. Madhya Pradesh has suspended many of the labour laws for next 1000 days.

Essential Commodities Act, 1955 and Essential Service Maintenance Act

Essential Commodities Act, 1955 it is used by the government to regulate the production, supply and distribution of various commodities that are declared to be “essential” by the government so that it reaches people at fair prices. Government has the power to set MRP of the products that are declared to be an essential commodity.

Essential Maintenance Act is an act which was established to ensure the delivery of certain services, which if obstructed would affect the normal life of the people. It includes services like public transport, health services etc.

These laws have been used by various states and the centre to control the price of surgical and n95 masks, hand sanitizers and the alcohol to be used to make the sanitizer. These goods were low on supply and price was set very high in the market. Many states have procured n95, surgical masks and the hand sanitizers under Essential Service Maintenance Act. The Central Government will not hesitate to ensure that essential goods are available at fair prices. 

When Age Talks: Celebrating International Day of Older Persons

This is the time when people need to show support by following the rules implemented by the government and follow the precautionary measures like maintaining hygiene, staying at home and maintaining social distancing. More than laws public support can help. Covid-19

People need to understand what wrong have they done so far that such a dangerous virus has entered our world and have put our world to an indefinite halt. Before the pandemic the world was upgrading its technology to such extents which were earlier unbelievable that such things can happen like performing embryo transfer, producing infants by sophisticated technology like IVF etc. it felt like in the 21st century it is not nature who controls humans, it is the humans who control nature. At this very moment, human development was expanding beyond horizons, damaging mother earth to such an unrepairable extent.

The wrath of nature has put the entire world to an indefinite halt, even after having such great technology, humans are in a helpless situation. It is high time that humans should understand the importance of nature and should prioritize their needs according to the sustainability of nature and try not to harm nature because the wrath of nature hits back in unexpected ways like the one we are witnessing right now.

Endnotes

  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/27-04-2020-who-timeline—covid-19
  2. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/covid-may-have-originated-from-recombined-bat-pangolin-coronaviruses/story-tWiWuhucSv2UtMM3mDNFPN.html
  3. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/legally-speaking/covid-19-law-related-to-quarantine-in-india/
  4. http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/1841/Analysis-of-Section-144-of-CrPC.html
  5. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/readersblog/insideoutside/relevance-of-epidemic-disease-act-1897-in-todays-scenari-20289/
  6. https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/meaning-functions-and-budget-of-national-disaster-management-authority-ndma-1589956477-1#:~:text=The%20National%20Disaster%20Management%20Authority,the%20Disaster%20Management%20Act%2C%202005. Covid-19

Kashish Dhawan |  Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies

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