Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020

The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020

The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020

The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, contains provisions for preventing the spread of dangerous epidemic (i.e., widespread) diseases. The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, has recently been amended vide the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, which was promulgated on 22nd April 2020. The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, fundamentally amends the Act to include protections for the healthcare service personnel battling the epidemic disease and expanding the central government’s powers to prevent the spread of the epidemic disease.

Key highlights of the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020

Insertion of the definition of ‘act of violence’-

New section 1A(a) is inserted in the Act, which defines the term ‘act of violence’. As per the definition, ‘act of violence’ includes following act committed against the healthcare service personnel serving during an epidemic-

  • An act that impacts the living/ working conditions of the healthcare service personnel and prevents him from discharging his duty.
  • An act that injures or harms or endangers the life of the healthcare service personnel.
  • An act that either obstructs or hinders the healthcare service personnel in discharging his duties.
  • An act that results in either loss or damage of any property/ document in the custody of the healthcare service personnel.

Insertion of the definition of ‘healthcare service personnel’-

New section 1A(b) is inserted in the Act, which defines the term ‘healthcare service personnel’. As per the definition, ‘healthcare service personnel’ means all such persons who are engaged in carrying on their duties concerning the epidemic diseases, comes in direct contact with the patients and accordingly are at risk of being impacted with the disease.

The healthcare service personnel include-

  • Public healthcare and clinical healthcare persons like doctors, nurses, paramedical workers, and community health workers.
  • Any other person empowered under the Act, taking measures to prevent the outbreak or spread of the epidemic disease.
  • Any other notified person.

Insertion of the definition of ‘property’-

New section 1A(c) is inserted in the Act, which defines the term ‘property’. As per the definition, the property includes the following-

  • A clinical establishment.
  • A mobile medical unit.
  • Any property facilitated for quarantine and isolation of the patients.
  • Any other property in which the healthcare service personnel had a direct interest in connection to the epidemic disease.

Expansion of the powers of the Central Government-

Section 2A of the Act is amended to expand the powers of the Central Government to prescribe regulation for the inspection of any bus, train, goods vehicle, vessel, aircraft, etc. and detention of any person who is intending to travel from the port during the epidemic outbreak.

Insertion of new penalty provisions-

  • New section 3(2) has been inserted in the Act which prescribes as under-
Category of person liable for penalty under section 3(2)Prescribed penalty

·       The person who commits or helps to commit the act of violence against the healthcare service personnel; or

·       The person who causes or helps to cause the damage or loss to any property

·       Imprisonment for a term of not less than 3 months. However, maximum imprisonment may extend to 5 years; and

·       The minimum fine payable would be INR 50,000. However, the maximum fine payable may extend up to INR 2 Lakhs.

  • New section 3(3) has been inserted in the Act which prescribes that-

Following penalty shall be imposed, in case the act of violence against the healthcare service personnel causes grievous hurt [as defined under section 320 of the Indian Penal Code]-

  • Imprisonment for a minimum period of 6 months. However, maximum imprisonment period may extend up to 7 years; and
  • The minimum amount of INR 1 Lakhs payable as fine. However, maximum amount of fine may extend up to INR 5 Lakhs.

Insertion of provisions relating to cognizance, investigation, and trial of offences-

New section 3A has been inserted in the Act which states that any case covered under section 3(2) or section 3(3) is-

  • Cognizable and non-bailable.
  • Such case should be investigated by a police officer not below the rank of inspector.
  • Such investigation should be completed within 30 days from the date of registration of the First Information Report (FIR).
  • The inquiry or trial of such case should be concluded within a period of one year.

Insertion of presumption clause-

New section 3C has been inserted in the Act, which states that while prosecuting any person for committing grievous hurt/ harm to the healthcare service personnel unless any contrary is proved, the court shall presume that the person is guilty of the offense.

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CA Poonam Gandhi is a Chartered Accountant and a Lawyer. With a wide practice experience and deep understanding of different laws and taxes, she has been an independent professional writer in the field of taxation, finance and laws.