Laws Governing the Lockdown of Novel Coronavirus
Our PM, Mr. Narendra Modi on 23rd March, 2020 called for a nationwide lockdown starting midnight to contain the COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed over 186 lives in India and has infected 6,237 people as of 9th April, 2020. The duration of the Phase 1 lockdown was 21 days which was going to end on 14th April but was extended till 3rd of May for 133.92 crore citizens. The novel coronavirus, or Covid-19 pandemic has spread across at least 190 countries, infecting 1,529,961 people across the globe, and claiming over 89,426 lives as of 9th April, 2020. A brief of the Laws, which may affect our lives during this period, is as below:
LAWS IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS IN INDIA
The Disaster Management Act, 2005
The stated object and purpose of the Disaster Management Act is to manage disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building and more. In the popular imagination, a disaster is usually associated with a natural calamity such as a cyclone or an earthquake. Even the definition of a “disaster” in Section 2 (d) of the Act states that a disaster means a “catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or manmade causes”.
To address the current pandemic outbreak, the Central Government has included the Covid-19 outbreak as “Notified Disaster” and as a “critical medical condition or pandemic situation”. State Governments have been advised to register complaints under section 51 to 59 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, which entails imprisonment up to two years or fine or both.
The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897
This is Colonial era law authorizes the State Government as well as the Central Government, to take special measures and propose regulations to prevent the spread of a “dangerous epidemic disease” and has been earlier used for containing the spread of swine flu, Cholera, malaria and dengue.
An example of this would be the order on March 16 under the Delhi Epidemics Diseases, Covid- 19 Regulations, 2020, whereby the Delhi Government had restricted gatherings with groups of more than 50 persons till March 31st.
What is a lockdown?
“Lockdown” is not a legal term. The term is being used by government officials and others to describe a situation where free movement of goods is restricted, except for essential items declared by the Government of India under Section 2, 3, 4 of the Epidemic Diseases Act.
Certain examples of exercise of lockdown powers of the government can be found in The Delhi Epidemic Diseases COVID 19 Regulations, 2020; the Maharashtra Epidemic Diseases COVID-19 Regulations, 2020; the Punjab Epidemic Diseases COVID-19 Regulations, 2020; the Himachal Pradesh Epidemic Disease (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020, etc.
In other words, a lockdown is an emergency procedure that stops people from leaving a given area. A full lockdown will mean you must stay where you are and not exit or enter a building or the given area.
To quote the Prime Minister,
Every State of the country, every Union Territory, every district, every municipality, every village, every street, every locality is being put under lockdown. This is in effect a type of curfew only.
This announcement by the Prime Minister finds its basis in Section 2 of Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
What is Section 144?
To control the spread of COVID-19 through communities, many states in India have imposed Section 144 till 3rd May.
Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 states that a gathering of four or more people is prohibited in the concerned area. If a gathering of four or more people is found, then every member of the group can be charged for engaging in a riot.
Section 144 is imposed in urgent cases of nuisance or to control the danger of some event that has the potential to cause trouble or damage to human life or property.
What is a curfew?
"Curfew" again is not a legal term. Generally, exercise of a power available to the District Magistrate, SDM, or any other executive magistrate under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is, in common parlance, referred to as a ‘curfew’.
The authorities in these circumstances, for preventing danger to human life, health or safety, disturbance of public tranquility, or a riot or an affray, may issue such orders. If anyone defies such orders issued under Section 144 CrPC, the enforcement agencies have a right to detain/arrest the violators.
So, let’s stay home, stay safe and save lives.
Please feel free to reach out to any member of G&A Team in case you require any clarifications on the above.
Gandhi & Associates