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Lockdown In India: Legal Provisions Provisions Providing Force To It

The world being caught up in the middle of a battle against an invisible foe is something that the present generation never witnessed before. The times are difficult. People are overwhelmed by the intensity of the effects of a contagious disease, called COVID-19, that has taken over the whole world, yet the government of every Nation is leaving no stone unturned in nullifying the adverse consequences of the present pandemic on their people.

India is no exception to this when it comes to performing endeavours to protect the country from a lethal virus. With the rise in a number of cases and unfortunate casualties, because of the ill impact of the ongoing pandemic, skyrocketing in India, imposing and implementing law of the land becomes sine qua non in providing some respite to the ailing current scenario in the country. How?

This is what the present article will be dealing with. It, therefore, becomes prudent to understand the law and legal provisions in India providing the required force to the restrictions (lockdown) being imposed in the country as per the urgency of the situation.

Note : The term Lockdown is not a legal term. This term is commonly used to represent the restrictions imposed. It simply means restrictions imposed by the government in the movements of its people, except for the essential services, in order to arrest the spread of any dangerous contagious disease or to prevent the same from becoming an outbreak.

Legislations Providing For Restrictions In Emergent Situations

Here, the following legislations and legal provisions are discussed which give a meaning to the imposition of restrictions on the movement of the people (lockdown) in emergent situations.
  • The Disaster Management Act, 2005
  • The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897
  • Indian Penal Code, 1860
  • The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973

Disaster Management Act:

The Disaster Management Act is a legislation passed by the Government of India to provide for the effective management of disasters and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

The objective of this legislation is to manage disasters, capacity building, aiding the common man in times of disaster, etc. Not only the Central government but also state governments and Local governments work in coordination with each other in an endeavour to lessen the impact of a disaster by, including but not limited to, inspecting the availability of required and emergent resources present to arrest the growth of such a disaster in the country, states and local areas.

The term Disaster as per this Act means a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man made causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or derogation of, environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected areas.

And the term disaster management means a continuous and integrated process of planning, organising, coordinating and implementing measures which are necessary or expedient for:
  1. prevention of danger or threat of any disaster
  2. mitigation or reduction of risk of any disaster or its severity or consequences;
  3. capacity-building;
  4. preparedness to deal with any disaster;
  5. prompt response to any threatening disaster situation or disaster
  6. assessing the severity or magnitude of effects of any disaster;
  7. evacuation, rescue and relief;
  8. rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act prescribed punishment for two types of offences. Firstly, for obstructing any officer or employee of the central or state government or any person authorised by the National Authority or State Authority or District Authority in the discharge of his functions under this Act. Secondly, for refusing to comply with any direction given by or on behalf of the Central Government or the State Government or the National Executive Committee or the State Executive Committee or the District Authority under this Act.

Therefore, a person disobeying or obstructing 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.

The Epidemics Diseases Act, 1897:

The Epidemic Diseases Act is another legislation passed by the Government of India in year 1897, intending to provide for the better protection of the spread of dangerous epidemic diseases.

Section 2 of this Act, in cases where a state government is satisfied that the state or any part of it is visited by or threatened with an outbreak of a dangerous epidemic disease, empowers the state government to take, or require or authorize any person to take such measures and providing for such temporary regulations to be imposed and to be observed by the general public with a view to contain the spread of any epidemic disease or its outbreak in an area.

For the above mentioned purpose in mind, the government has the power to take measures and prescribe regulations for the inspection of persons travelling by railways or otherwise, of persons suspected by the inspecting officer of being infected with any such disease.

Likewise, Section 2A of the present Act gives powers to the Central Government, in situations like mentioned above, to take measures and prescribe regulations for the inspection of any ship or vessel leaving or arriving at certain ports and for such detention of any person intending to sail therein, or arriving thereby, as may be necessary with a view to contain the spread of or to prevent the outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease.

The regulations and orders by the government requiring for the limitation of number of persons to be gathered at a given time and location is an implementational part of the provisions of Epidemic Diseases Act.

Section 3 provides for penalty provision for persons disobeying any regulation or order made under the Epidemic diseases Act and such person shall be deemed to have committed an offence punishable under section 188 of Indian Penal code.

Therefore, the restrictions imposed by the government on the movement of the people (lockdown), except for the essential services, is an effect of the provisions of Section 2, 2A and Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.

Section 188 of Indian Penal Code:

Section 188 of IPC can be considered as an extension of the Epidemic diseases Act, 1897 giving teeth to the latter.

Section 188 prescribes punishment in the form of simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees or with both for an offence whereby any person, directed by an order of a public servant to abstain from a certain act, or to take a certain order with certain property in his possession or under his management, disobeys such direction, if such disobedience causes or tends to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury, or risk of obstruction, annoyance or injury, to any person lawfully employed.

Also, the penalty is severe, that is, imprisonment of either description (simple or rigorous) for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both in cases where such disobedience causes or trends to cause danger to human life, health or safety, or causes or tends to cause a riot or affray.

Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973:

The criminal procedure code is a legislation setting out a detailed procedure for the administration of substantive criminal law in India.

Section 144 of Crpc further provides teeth to the above discussed legislations. It comes into play in two scenarios, firstly, in cases of nuisance, and secondly, in cases of apprehended danger.

This section confers power to a District Magistrate, Sub-divisional Magistrate or other Executive Magistrate, empowered by the state government, to direct any person to abstain from a certain act or to take certain order with respect to certain property in his possession or under his management, in cases where an immediate prevention of a damage or speedy remedy is desirable, if such Magistrate considers that such direction is likely to prevent, or tends to prevent, obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed, or danger to human life, health or safety, or a disturbance of the public tranquility, or a riot, of an affray.

Therefore, an order under section 144 Crpc is passed in cases of emergency. The restriction on the movement of the people in a certain area with the object of preventing a harm, injury, annoyance etc to people in an affect of Section 144.

This legal provision is reflected in the government orders providing for the restricted movement of people not exceeding five in a certain area. Now, taking into consideration the ongoing pandemic, such order by the government under section 144 of criminal procedure code has the potential to mitigate the consequences of the contagious disease from being spread to a larger area.

Thus, the above legislations have come into effect with a sole purpose of arresting the harmful consequences of an ongoing contagious disease.

Legislations are not only passed for the purposes of punishing a person for a crime, but also for times like this, when a situation goes out of control being worse hit by a pandemic. The purpose of such laws is to order people of the state to acknowledge the gravity of a particular situation and to abide by the commands of the government given with the sole intention of mitigating and aiding the general public in difficult times.

The above laws discussed is in full force in India and in different States to restrict the spread of a dangerous contagious disease. These legal provisions are a doorway to a better tomorrow if respected and faithfully obeyed.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Rasleen Kour
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: MA113059802482-10-0521

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