Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Epidemic diseases act
Mains level: Provisions required under Epidemic diseases act
A dharna in Agra over the movement of buses to ferry migrant labour led
to the arrest of the Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu and two
of his party colleagues — all three subsequently got bail.
Amongst the laws weaponised by the UP police to detain the Opposition
leaders is a late-19th century statute, The Epidemic Diseases Act.
The epidemic diseases act:
Drafted by the colonial state in 1897 “to take special measures and
prescribe regulations” for “the better prevention of the dangerous epidemic
diseases”, the law has been summoned in the past to deal with outbreaks of
Of course, combating COVID-19 does require extensive surveillance,
including identification of the carriers of the virus and their contacts.
But in most parts of the world, including India, a growing body of
literature has underlined that such extraordinary measures are best
undertaken by taking citizens into confidence, using persuasion and
involving the community.
At several places, however, the state authorities are giving the go-by
to these imperatives and asserting state power in heavy-handed ways, by
taking cover under Clause 4 of the Epidemics Act — actions taken under the
law are provided immunity from “legal proceedings” for they are deemed to
have been “undertaken in good faith”.
In early April, when knowledge of the virus was still uncertain among
large sections of the people, an FIR was slapped against the family of a
Bengaluru technician, who had contracted COVID-19, for “hiding information”,
and they were charge-sheeted under the Epidemics Act.
Also last month, the Mumbai Police invoked the law to arrest a
journalist, alleging that his social media posts led to unrest among migrant
workers in suburban Bandra.
Criminalising criticism and dissent:
A toxic mix of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, Section 144 of the
CrPC and the Epidemics Act may well be on its way to becoming the new
sedition law, which has been invoked with disturbing frequency.............................
The FIRs allege that these reports are “fake” and “sensational” news;
the cases are being investigated. But governments must realise that the
discourse on citizens’ rights and public health has moved on from the times
when the colonial government charged Bal Gangadhar Tilak for sedition for
criticising its handling of the 1897 bubonic plague.
Else, the Supreme Court must intervene to allow people to voice their
opinions freely during a crisis, and especially in a crisis, without the
threat of their being criminalised.
Misuse of Epidemic Diseases Act by government must stop. Else, court
must step in to protect citizens’ freedoms
Q1. With reference to the Integrated Battle Groups (IBG), consider
the following statements: 1. The IBGs are brigade sized agile self-sufficient combat formations which,
can swiftly launch strikes against adversary.
2. They will be able to mobilise within 12-48 hours based on the location.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2