Law Commission suggests enhanced punishment for irresponsible behaviour in epidemics

With an aim to deter people at large from acting irresponsibly during epidemics, the Law Commission of India has suggested enhanced punishment and making offences non-bailable for offenders.

Citing deficiencies in the present Epidemic Diseases Act, the Commission has recommended that the law needs to be amended to address the existing gaps so that future epidemics can be taken care of.

The panel, headed by Justice (retired) Ritu Raj Awasthi, has submitted its report to the government and highlighted how the Covid-19 pandemic came as a huge challenge for the health infrastructure in India.

“In the course of dealing with this crisis, certain limitations in the legal framework relating to health were realised. While the government was quick to respond to the emerging situation, it was felt that a more comprehensive law could have enabled a better response to the crisis,” the panel said.

In its report, it also said that there is an ardent need for comprehensive legislation to deal with epidemics that provides for a coordinated response in the unforeseen event.

Considering the modern scientific advancements, a new or amended Act should not only give the government mere stipulated powers, “rather it should shape appropriate response mechanisms in preventing and controlling epidemic diseases”, it said.

“For taking the appropriate measures to contain and control the epidemic diseases, and to demarcate the power between Centre and state, the stages of the disease must be defined outbreak which further leads to an ‘epidemic’ and a pandemic,” the panel recommended.

The law panel also suggested that a flexible enforcement mechanism is required for prevention, control and management of epidemic diseases as per the stage of the spread of an infectious or contagious disease.

“For subsequent or repeat contraventions, the punishments should be enhanced. For accelerating enforcement, it was proposed that such offences are cognisable and non-bailable, whose investigation and trial should be completed expeditiously,” the report added.

Published By:

Karishma Saurabh Kalita

Published On:

Feb 13, 2024

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