- The Centre amended the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897, making attacks on healthcare workers a cognisable, non-bailable offence, on March 2020.
- The colonial-era Act empowers the state governments to take special measures and prescribe regulations in an epidemic, defines penalties for disobedience of these regulations, and provides for immunity for actions taken under the Act “in good faith”.
How did the Epidemic Diseases come to be?
- Epidemic Diseases Bill 1897, was tabled during an outbreak of bubonic plague. Plague had taken root in Bombay has been gradually extending to other parts of the country.
- The Bill called for special powers for governments of Indian provinces and local bodies, including to check passengers of trains and sea routes.
- The British government was particularly worried about Calcutta, then the Indian capital, hence, the Bill was being tabled and passed hurriedly.
- Woodburn was told that “many of the (Indians) would rather die of the plague than allow themselves to be segregated or removed”.
What has changed about the law now?
Through an ordinance on April 22, the Cabinet amended the Act to say that commission or abetment of acts of violence against healthcare service personnel shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of three months to five years, and with fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh.
In case of causing grievous hurt, imprisonment shall be for a term of six months to seven years and with fine of Rs1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.
-Source: Indian Express