New Delhi: Flagging "significant deficiencies" in the Epidemic Diseases Act, the Law Commission has recommended to the government that either the law be suitably amended to address existing gaps or a comprehensive legislation be brought in to effectively deal with future epidemics.
The panel headed by Justice (retired) Ritu Raj Awasthi has submitted its report to the government, calling for an exhaustive overhaul of the law. In his cover note to Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, Justice Awasthi noted that the COVID-19 pandemic unleashed an unprecedented challenge for the Indian health infrastructure.
"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," he said.
The immediate response to COVID-19 such as the imposition of a lockdown was invoked under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, he recalled. In light of the immediate challenges, especially those faced by the healthcare workers, Parliament amended the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 in 2020.
"However, these amendments fell short as critical gaps and omissions remained in the Act," he noted. The panel took up "a comprehensive review of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897" on a suo-motu basis.
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