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COVID 19: Know Your Legal Right in Quarantine. 

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World Health Organisation(WHO) has given name to novel coronavirus as COVID -19 which infects our respiratory system. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and is largely spread via droplets in the air. These are typically expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The COVID-19 is likely to spread through salvia or discharge of nose when one coughs and sneezes. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness Those people who are more than 60 years old have a higher risk of infecting this disease that may lead to death.

The story of this virus started from Wuhan, China where on 31st December 2019, China officially informed WHO about the outbreak of COVID -19. Before this, some doctors were harassed by the Chinese authorities to not disclose anything related to COVID19 outbreak. China made lockdown of 3 months to prevent the spread of coronavirus and reported to WHO that main reason behind spreading of COVID -19 is seafood and meat market of Wuhan. This led the world community to question the eating habits of the Chinese people. On 11th March, WHO declared coronavirus as pandemic disease. Thousands of people in China were killed by COVID-19 and then it started to spread worldwide leading to health emergency and lockdowns by many countries to prevent its outbreak. Soon in Italy and America thousands of people died by a novel coronavirus and this lead to global fear.  

What are the symptoms of COVID -19?

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Dry Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Aches and pains
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhoea, 
  • Runny Nausea 
  • Runny nose

How it can be prevented?

  1. You need to wash your hands regularly with soap and water or clean them with an alcohol-based sanitizer.
  2. You need to Maintain at least 1-metre distance between you and people coughing or sneezing. (Social Distancing)
  3. You need to Avoid touching your face.
  4. You need to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  5. You need to stay home if you feel unwell.
  6. Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs.
  7. Practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel and staying away from large groups of people.

What is Quarantine?

To the recent spread of COVID-19, it is important to understand what Quarantine actually means? The word Quarantine comes from the Latin word quarantena which means 40 days. Quarantine has been defined as the limitation of freedom of movement of such well persons or domestic animals exposed to the communicable disease for a period of time not longer than the longest usual incubation period of the disease in such a manner, as to prevent effective contact with those not so exposed.  According to the Cambridge dictionary, Quarantine is a period of time during which an animal or person that might have a disease is kept away from other people or animals so that the disease cannot spread. To stop the spread of Contagious disease government uses quarantine. Normally Quarantine period is up to 14 days. 

Difference between Quarantine and Isolation

Sr NoQuarantineIsolation
1
Use to separate and restricts the movement of  people who are not sick to see whether they became sickUse to separate sick people already affected by the disease from those who are not sick
2
Helps to limit the spread of the disease. Use for a person in doubt or safety.Help to cure and give medical treatment to the infected person 
3
Disease is  not ConfirmedDisease is  confirmed 

Lockdown In India

Government of India do not have any principal legislation related to Quarantine. Both Centre and State have the power to legislate i.e Public Health under Entry 29 of Concurrent List. Entry 29 gives power to the centre and state to legislate law for the prevention of an infectious or contagious disease spreading from one state to another. 

In India, Centre has passed an order dated 24th March 2020 of 21-day lockdown under Section 6 2 (i) Disaster Management Act, 2005 directing all the Union ministries,  departments, state authorities, state governments and Union Territories, to implement measures given in this order. The Order gave directions to restrict the movement of people outside their house and closure of offices, factories, shops except items considered as basic necessities. 

Whereas States also has powers to legislate under Entry 6 of State List of Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. The various States passed the order of Lockdown under Epidemic Act, 1987 and some states have other legislation for public health.

Constitutionally, What law will prevail in case of inconsistency between the Centre Act and State Act?

Under Article 245 of the Constitution, the centre has the power to legislate whole or any part of the country whereas the state has the power to enact the law for whole or any part of the state. As Entry 29 of Concurrent List gives powers to legislate in matter of infectious disease COVID 19  to both centre and State. But dispute may arise between Centre Acts and State Acts. 

According to Section 254 of the Constitution, if there will be any inconsistency between Centre Acts and State Acts, Law of Centre will prevail over state and law enacted by State till the repugnancy will be void. Hon.ble Supreme Court in the case of Karunanidhi vs. Union of India discusses the Doctrine of the Repungnancy.

Thus, the Centre’s Order under Section 6 (2) i of the Disaster Management Act will prevail over all the state legislation to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19.

What will happen if the state does not abide by the Centre’s Order?

If the state fails to abide by the Centre’s Order dated 24.03.2020 than there will be the failure of Constitutional Machinery under Article 356 and President Rule will get imposed in that state

Whether Centre has the Power to impose Public Health Emergency under Article 352?

After the 44th Amendment, there are only 3 grounds in which Centre can invoke National Emergency. These 3 grounds are:

  1. War
  2. External Aggression
  3. Arm Rebellion

Thus, the Centre does not have the power to impose National Health Emergency with respect to outbreak of COVID-19 under Article 352. Lockdown under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 was the best suitable choice with the Centre to prevent the Outbreak of COVID-19.

Than How Order of Home Ministry is  Legally Valid?

COVID-19 comes within the meaning of disaster under Section 2(d) of the Disaster Management Act giving the power to the central government to impose rules, guidelines to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19.

Section 38 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 imposes duties on state governments and Union Territories to abide by the Centre Order passed under Section 6 (2) i of DMA Act, 2005.  Section 72 of the DMA Act clearly states that the provision of this Act will prevail over other laws. Thus Order Passed by the Home Ministry is valid and Legal.

Legal Rights of Person in Quarantine (India)

As we know that there is an absence of national law for the Quarantine in India. Here are some Fundamentals rights provided  under the Constitution of India:

  1. Right to equal treatment – A quarantined person needs to treated equally (Art 14) and there should be no discrimination on the basis of religion, race, class while treating the person.
  2. Right to freedom of speech and expression subject to reasonable restriction – A person has freedom of speech & expression subject to reasonable restrictions. He cannot organize meetings, cannot join public gatherings but can share his thoughts through social media and other communication ways.
  3. Right to Food, Water, Sanitation and Shelter –  It is the duty of government to provide food, water and sanitation when people are in quarantine. (Art 21) 
  4. Right to Life   – A person has the right to life under Art 21 of the Constitution and quarantine person should not be left to die
  5. Right to medications – Quarantine person should be taken proper care and proper medication should be given.
  6. Right to get basic commodities – It is the duty of government to provide basic commodities such as bread, butter, milk etc to the person in quarantined.
  7. Right to have credible information about health – A person in quarantine has right to know credible information related to his health.
  8. Right to Privacy – A quarantined person should have the right to privacy and minimal personal information should be published by the Government for the person tested Positive of COVID-19. 

Liabilities & Punishments

According to guidelines of Home Ministry, One who violates the Lockdown Order will be liable under Section 188  provisions of IPC as well as Section 51 to 60 of Disaster Management Act, 2019. Some of the Punishment is as follows:


1. Section 188 IPC – Under Section 188 of IPC any person who disobeyed the order of public servant and

(i) such disobedience causes or tends to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury, or risk of obstruction, annoyance or injury, to any person lawfully employed, be punished with simple impris­onment for a term which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both                       

                                                  or

(ii) if such disobedience causes or trends to cause danger to human life, health or safety,  or causes or tends to cause a riot or affray, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both

2. Section 505 of IPC – Under 505 of IPC whoever  makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report likely to cause fear or alarm through any means  of communications shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both

3. Section 51 of Disaster Management Act,2005 – Under Diasater Management Act, whoever without reasonable cause 

(i) Obstructs any pubic servant discharging functions under this Act and prevent an outbreak of COVID-19

(ii)  Refused to comply with the direction given by Central Order 

shall on conviction be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine, or with both, and if such obstruction or refusal to comply with directions results in loss of lives or imminent danger thereof, shall on conviction be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years. 

4. Section 52 of DMA – Whoever makes any false claim to the government for any relief assistance shall, on conviction be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, and also with fine.

5. Section 54 of DMA – Whoever makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic, shall on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine.

Does Court have the Power to take Cognizance under DMA Act, 2005?

Under Section 60 of Disaster Management Act The court does not have the power to take cognizance of the offence committed under this Act except complaint made by –  

(a) the National Authority, the State Authority, the Central Government, the State Government, the District Authority or any other authority or officer authorised in this behalf by that Authority or Government, as the case may be; or 

(b) any person who has given notice of not less than thirty days in the manner prescribed, of the alleged offence and his intention to make a complaint to the National Authority, the State Authority, the Central Government, the State Government, the District Authority or any other authority or officer authorised as aforesaid.

Yogesh Sharma
Yogesh Sharma

Founder and CEO, Law Yog
Email: yogeshsharma1551997@gmail.com

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