Dealing with Future Pandemics – Law Commission’s report

Dealing with Future Pandemics – Law Commission’s report

News: The Law Commission of India has recently submitted its Report No. 286 titled A Comprehensive Review of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to the Government of India.

Key Findings:
• The 22nd Law Commission holds the view that the existing legislation does not comprehensively address the concerns pertaining to the containment and management of future epidemics in the country as new infectious diseases or novel strains of existing pathogens may emerge.
• Given that the right to health is a fundamental right implicit in Article 21 of the Constitution and the State is duty-bound to ensure the same to the citizens, it becomes imperative to revisit and strengthen the law in order to effectively tackle any such future health emergency.
• The Commission has recommended that either the existing law needs to be suitably amended to address existing gaps or a new comprehensive legislation be enacted on the subject.

Epidemic Disease Act, 1897:
• The Epidemic Diseases Act, of 1897 is a law that was first enacted to tackle bubonic plague in Bombay state in former British India.
• The law is meant for the containment of epidemics by providing special powers that are required for the implementation of containment measures to control the spread of the disease.
• The Act has been routinely used to contain various diseases in India such as swine flu, cholera, malaria, and dengue.

Limitations of the 1897 Act:
• The report states that- “the management, control, and prevention of epidemic diseases cannot be restricted to a century-old law.”
• The report claims that as a colonial-era legislation, the EDA has great potential for abuse.
• It was not designed to combat modern issues with the spread of infectious diseases.

About Law Commission of India:
• The Law Commission of India is an executive body established by the Government of India. It’s neither a constitutional body nor a statutory body.
• The Law Commission is established for a fixed tenure. While the tenure of each Law Commission is usually three years, some sources suggest it can be five years.
• The Commission is primarily composed of legal experts, which includes a Chairman (usually a retired judge of the Supreme Court), a Member Secretary, a Permanent Member (usually a retired judge of either the Supreme Court or High Court), two Part-time members, and two Ex-officio members. 

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