Act of 1897 that helped contain plague invoked on state

Act of 1897 that helped contain plague invoked on state

The century-old Act that helped contain plague now brought into force to check Covid-19, the Epidemic Diseases Act (EDA), 1897, which the Karnataka government invoked recently to check the spread of Covid-19, is one of the oldest Acts in the country.

It was implemented for the first time in 1897 when the Bubonic plague broke out in Bombay Presidency, which also consisted northern parts of Karnataka, during British rule. This is also one of the shortest laws as it contains just four sections.

Karnataka has become the first state to invoke the provisions of the Act to contain Covid-19. The Act, which came into effect on March 11, will be in force for one year. The law is aimed at checking epidemics by providing special powers that are required for the implementation of the containment measures for the disease.

This Act was invoked by different states, including Gujarat, for controlling pandemics like swine flu, cholera, malaria and dengue in recent years.

The states can invoke this Act if they are threatened by the outbreak of dangerous contagious diseases and they think that the provisions of the existing laws are insufficient to control such diseases. The Act provides powers to the officers to take special measures and prescribe regulations to prevent the disease from spreading.

As per the Act, any person disobeying any regulation or order made under the EDA shall be deemed to have committed an offence punishable under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).

Another provision of the Act gives legal protection to persons (officials) implementing the Act. No suit or legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything done in good faith or intended to be done under this Act. The officials have full powers to deal with the situation.

Plague had caused devastation in North Karnataka, where thousands of people died. In a bid to escape from the disease, people fleeing cities and villages and camping in far away fields was a common scene. But, EDA effectively brought the disease under control.