Review of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897

Law Commission of India submits Report titled “A Comprehensive Review of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897"

The 22nd Law Commission of India has submitted its Report No. 286 titled “A Comprehensive Review of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897" to the Government of India.

The COVID-19 pandemic unleashed an unprecedented challenge for the Indian health infrastructure. While the Government was quick to respond to the emerging situation, in the course of dealing with this crisis, certain limitations in the legal framework relating to health were realized.

The immediate response to COVID-19 such as the imposition of lockdown was invoked under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. Further, in light of the immediate challenges, especially those faced by the healthcare workers, the Parliament amended the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 in 2020.

In this highly globalized and interconnected world, future outbreaks of epidemics are a real possibility. Further, given that the right to health is a fundamental right implicit in Article 21 of the Constitution and the State is duty-bound to ensure the same to the citizens, it becomes imperative to revisit and strengthen the law in order to effectively tackle any such future health emergency.

The 22nd Law Commission holds the view that the existing legislation does not comprehensively address the concerns pertaining to the containment and management of future epidemics in the country as new infectious diseases or novel strains of existing pathogens may emerge.

In light of the foregoing, the Law Commission suo motu undertook extensive examination of the existing legal framework on this subject. The Commission has recommended that either the existing law needs to be suitably amended to address existing gaps or a new comprehensive legislation be enacted on the subject.