May 17, 2021

Legal Awareness Regarding the Quarantine Laws Prevailing in India

The COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed the entire world, and it similarly invoked India. The spread was so colossal that the World Health Organization (WHO) has to declare it as a pandemic. The current COVID-19 crisis includes the closure of outlets, educational institutions and other services has put the people in de facto quarantine. ‘Quarantine’, the word recently introduced to us but which has a history prevailing through various pandemics. The quarantine laws are already prevailing in India but the society is unaware of these laws through which the Government can take action against people who violate these laws.

Quarantine is the separation of and restriction of movement or activities of persons who are not ill but who are believed to have been exposed to infection, for the purpose of preventing transmission of diseases. Persons are usually quarantined in their homes, but they may also be quarantined in community-based facilities.[1]
Quarantine can be applied to:

  • An individual or to a group of persons who are exposed at a large public gathering or to persons believed exposed on a conveyance during international travel.
  • A wider population or geographical- level basis.

The recommended duration of quarantine for COVID-19 based on available information is upto 14 days from the time of exposure.[2]

The Government of India has also stated the guidelines for home quarantine. Home quarantine is applicable if in contact of a suspect or confirmed case of COVID-19.[3]
Corona virus is highly transmissible and that’s why the people coming from corona affected countries and people in contact with the corona affected patients are kept under medical observation to ascertain their health data. However, several incidences have been reported about the people travelers avoiding medical screening at the airport, sprinting from the quarantine centers and not following the rules prescribed for self-isolation by the concerned authorities. People are highly unaware of the prevailing laws under which they can be punished for such actions that are detrimental to the health and safety of others.
In India, we have such regulations in The Indian Penal Code, 1860 under section 269 and section 270, section 271.

SECTION 271 – Disobedience to quarantine rule – Whoever knowingly disobeys any rule made and promulgated [by the [* * *] Government [* * *] for putting any vessel into a state of quarantine, or for regulating the intercourse of vessels in a state of quarantine with the shore or with other vessels, or for regulating the intercourse between places where an infectious disease prevails and other places, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.[4] The objective of this law is to prevent the pathogen causing infectious diseases non-existent from entering the country through vessels or aircraft, and to take measures necessary for prevention of other infectious diseases borne through vessels or aircraft.
Under section 269, Whoever unlawfully or negligently does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.[5] It states that whenever the person does an act negligently or unlawfully with the knowledge that is likely to spread the infection of the disease which is detrimental to life shall be punished as described in the above section.

Under section 270, Whoever malignantly does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both. [6] It states that a person shall be punished as described above if the person does an act malignantly with the knowledge that is about to spread the infectious disease that is detrimental to life.

In order to control the situation prevailing in India related to COVID-19, Government invoked powers under The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. This law was enacted for the better prevention of the spread of Dangerous Epidemic Diseases. As per this law, the State Government or Central Government has the power to take special measures and prescribe regulations as to dangerous epidemic disease.[7]

When the Central Government is satisfied that India or any part threatened with an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease and the existing provisions of the ordinary law are insufficient to prevent the outbreak or contain its spread then it empowers the Central as well as the State Governments to take necessary measures to prevent the outbreak or spread of such epidemic. Since, the Public health features is in the state list under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India, the centre is related to an advisory role and the primary imposing rules and regulations is done by the State.[8] The law also states that no suit or legal proceedings shall lie against any person for anything done or in good faith intended to be done under this Act.[9] Any person who disobeys any regulation or order passed under this law shall be punished under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.[10] As per section 188 of IPC, if the disobedience to the order duly promulgated by a public servant which tends to cause danger to human life, health or safety, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.[11] States may also issue orders by invoking section 144 of CrPC, 1973 to restrict public gatherings and impose a curfew.[12]

We also have the Disaster Management Act, 2005 that provides for effective management of man-made and natural disasters which may result in substantial loss of life or human suffering. Biological disasters that maybe caused by epidemics are covered under National Disaster Management Guidelines, 2008 for the management of biological disasters drafted by National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India.

As it is rightly said that, “Every good citizen adds to the strength of the nation”. Being a responsible citizen of India, it is our responsibility to strictly follow the guidelines given by the Government. We the responsible citizens could help fight against the prevailing pandemic. It is the high time for people to understand the intensity of the pandemic and the rules and regulations prescribed. When these rules and regulations will be receiving the public support we will succeed in defeating COVID-19. Along with the care of our own selves we need to care for the society as we owe to the nation.

[1] https://www.mohfw.gov.in (Guidelines for quarantine facilities COVID-19)

[2] https://www.mohfw.gov.in (Guidelines for quarantine facilities COVID-19)

[3] https://www.mohfw.gov.in (Guidelines for quarantine facilities COVID-19)

[4] Section 271 of The Indian Penal Code,1860

[5] Section 269 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860

[6] Section 270 of The Indian Penal Code,1860

[7] The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897

[8] Seventh Schedule of the Constitution

[9] Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897

[10] Epidemic Disease Act, 1897

[11] Section 188 of The Indian Penal Code,1860

[12] Section 144 of CrPC

Author Details: Shruti Pandav is a student at Manikchand Pahade Law College, Aurangabad.

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