Topics Covered: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897
What to study?
For Prelims: Overview of the ordinance and epidemics diseases act.
For Mains: Need for and significance of this ordinance.
Context: The Union Cabinet has approved promulgation of an Ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to protect healthcare service personnel and property including their living/working premises against violence during epidemics.
The ordinance is intended to ensure that during any situation akin to the current pandemic, there is zero tolerance to any form of violence against healthcare service personnel and damage to property.
How the current COVID-19 pandemic has affected critical service providers?
Members of healthcare services are targeted and attacked by miscreants, thereby obstructing them from doing their duties.
They have become the most vulnerable victims as they have been perceived by some as carriers of the virus.
This has led to cases of their stigmatization and ostracization and sometimes worse, acts of unwarranted violence and harassment.
What is the fallout?
Such a situation tend to hamper the medical community from performing their duties to their optimum best and maintaining their morale, which is a critical need in this hour of national health crisis.
Need for a National Level legislation:
The existing state laws do not have a wide sweep and ambit. They generally do not cover harassment at home and workplace and are focused more on physical violence only. The penal provisions contained in these laws are not stringent enough to deter mischief mongering.
Overview of the ordinance and key provisions in it:
- The Ordinance provides for making acts of violence cognizable and non-bailable offences.
- It has provisions for compensation for injury to healthcare service personnel or for causing damage or loss to the property in which healthcare service personnel may have a direct interest in relation to the epidemic.
- Violence includes harassment and physical injury and damage to property.
- Healthcare service personnel include public and clinical healthcare service providers such as doctors, nurses, paramedical workers and community health workers; any other persons empowered under the Act to take measures to prevent the outbreak of the disease or spread thereof; and any persons declared as such by the State Government, by notification in the Official Gazette.
- Punishment can be imprisonment for a term of three months to five years, and with fine of Rs.50,000/- to Rs.2,00,000/-. In case of causing grievous hurt, imprisonment shall be for a term six months to seven years and with fine of Rs.1,00,000/- to Rs.5,00,000/-.
- Offences shall be investigated by an officer of the rank of Inspector within a period of 30 days, and trial has to be completed in one year, unless extended by the court for reasons to be recorded in writing.
Provisions of the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act:
- It empowers state governments/UTs to take special measures and formulate regulations for containing the outbreak.
- It also empowers state to prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by the public or by any person or class of persons as it shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof.
- The state may determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation if any) shall be defrayed.
- It also provides penalties for disobeying any regulation or order made under the Act. These are according to section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).
- It also gives legal protection to the implementing officers acting under the Act.
- What is Ordinance? How and when is it promulgated?
- Definition of violence in the ordinance.
- Previous examples of implementation of Epidemics Diseases Act, diseases for which it was declared.
- A notifiable disease.
- Implementing agency, penalty, protection and inspection of people under the act.
- Handling of the plague epidemic by British, criticisms by Tilak through his papers.
Discuss the key provisions of the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act.