Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Sansad TV: Acts & Facts- The Disaster Management Act, 2005



Disaster Management Act, 2005:

  • The stated object and purpose of the DM Act is to manage disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building and more.
  • It came into force in India in January 2006.
  • The Act provides for “the effective management of disasters and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
  • The Act calls for the establishment of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA),with the Prime Minister of India as chairperson.
  • The Act enjoins the Central Government to Constitute a National Executive Committee (NEC) to assist the National Authority.
  • All State Governments are mandated to establish a State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA).

Powers given to the Centre:

  • Power bestowed by DM Act on Central Government and NDMA are extensive.
  • The Central Government, irrespective of any law in force (including over-riding powers) can issue any directions to any authority anywhere in India to facilitate or assist in the disaster management.
  • Importantly, any such directions issued by Central Government and NDMA must necessarily be followed the Union Ministries, State Governments and State Disaster Management Authorities.
  • In order to achieve all these, the prime minister can exercise all powers of NDMA (S 6(3)). This ensures that there is adequate political and constitutional heft behind the decisions made.

Relevant Sections of NDMA 2005

  • Section 6: It gives NDMA the powers to prepare national plans for disaster management. It also ensures the implementation of the plan through the state disaster management authorities.
  • Section 10: It allows the NEC to give directions to governments regarding measures to be taken by them.
  • Section 33: It says that the District Authority may order any officer or any Department at the district level or any local authority to take such measures for the prevention or mitigation of disaster. Such officer or department shall be bound to carry out such order.
  • Penal Provisions: Moreover, sections 51 to 60 of the Act lay down penalties for specific offenses. Anyone found obstructing any officer or employee from performing their duty will be imprisoned. The term of the punishment may extend to one year or fined, or be both.
  • Further, if such an act of obstruction leads to loss of lives or imminent danger, then the person can be jailed for up to two years

Role of disaster management act, 2005 in the pandemic situation:

  • COVID-19 was the first pan India biological disaster being handled by the legal and constitutional institutions of the country.
  • To address the current epidemic outbreak, the Central government had included the Covid-19 outbreak as “Notified Disaster” as a “critical medical condition or pandemic situation” .
  • Though the Constitution of India is silent on the subject ‘disaster’, the legal basis of the DM Act, is Entry 23, Concurrent List of the Constitution “Social security and social insurance”.
  • Entry 29, Concurrent List “Prevention of the extension from one State to another of infectious or contagious diseases or pests affecting men, animals or plants,” can also be used for specific law making.
  • As the Indian economy had started out in early 2020 in reasonably poor shape, there was a lot of concern about this combination, of extreme measures impacting upon a weak economy.

Economic perspectives are missing in the DMA 2005:

  • The use of coercive power of the state has major consequences for the market economy.
  • Economic policy works well when the liabilities for violating rules are of a civil nature. All economic actions are conducted in the pursuit of financial gain, and the threat of a fine which is three times the ill-gotten gain suffices in removing the incentive to violate the law.
  • But the Disaster Management Act imposes criminal liabilities. This will create a strange dynamic between officials’ vs people.
  • Economic policy works well when there is the slow, intellectual, consultative process of understanding problems, undertaking cost benefit analysis, finding the least coercive intervention, and making small moves.
  • Such institutionalized application of mind is born of provisions in laws that establish formal processes for wielding coercive power.
  • The Disaster Management Act, 2005, does not have these checks and balances, as it was never intended to be a key economic law.
  • There are a thousand questions about every element of coercion that need to be clarified through explicit drafting of law, through subordinate legislation and through jurisprudence. That process has not taken place around the Disaster Management Act.
  • As a consequence, there are numerous grey areas about what can be done and what cannot be done. There is considerable discretion with millions of officials, all across the country, in deciding who to permit and who to ban.