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One of the colonial era legislations which has stood the test of time in India is the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1987 (“Epidemic Act”). This short legislation although containing only 4 sections, yet is a very powerful tool for the Executive. Under this law, the Central Government as well as State Governments, have the power to take special measures and prescribe regulations to prevent the spread of a Dangerous Epidemic Disease. The word Dangerous Epidemic Disease has not been defined in the law and the lack of such definition warrants a serious review of this law by the Parliament.
Under Section 2A of the Epidemic Act, the Central Government has the power to take any measures or prescribe regulations to inspect any ship or vessel leaving or arriving in any port or Detention of any person planning to leave or arrive into India. The revised travel advisory issued by a group of ministers (“GoM”), including the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (“MoHFW”) is an example of this.
The State Governments also have the power under Section 2(1) of the Epidemic Act to take measures to prevent the outbreak of Dangerous Epidemic Disease, by prescribing regulations to be enforced with respect to any person or group of people. An example of this would be the Order dated 16.03.2020 passed under the Delhi Epidemics Diseases, COVID -19 Regulations, 2020 whereby the Delhi Government has restricted gatherings with groups of more than 50 persons till the 31st of March, 2020.