While several states issued Covid-19 regulations to contain the spread of Covid-19, some promulgated various ordinances for prevention and control of the disease. (File photo)
NEW DELHI: The Centre and the state governments took multiple legislative steps in 2020 to prevent the spread of the coronarvirus pandemic in the country, according to a report by a think tank.
The central government invoked the Disaster Management Act, 2005 to assume primary responsibilities of addressing the pandemic.
State governments either amended the central law, the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 (in its application to their respective states), or prescribed temporary regulations under the 1897 law.
The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 provides for the prevention of the spread of dangerous epidemic diseases in the country. The Act empowers states to take special measures to prevent the outbreak and spread of epidemic diseases.
Several states, including Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Punjab and Telangana issued Covid-19 regulations for the prevention of the spread of the virus, PRS Legislative Research said in its annual review of state laws, 2020.
Some states such as Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh promulgated various ordinances for prevention and control of epidemic diseases in their respective states.
These ordinances were either amending or replacing the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 or the states' own epidemic diseases laws. These ordinances gave the respective state governments the power to notify any disease as an epidemic disease in their states, the report noted.
They could also impose restrictions such as lockdown, an inspection of travellers, sealing of state borders, and suspension of public and private transport for preventing the spread of the disease.
They also increased the penalties for contravention of rules. "For example, the Uttar Pradesh ordinance prescribed a punishment of one to three years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10,000 to Rs 1,00,000 for violating quarantine or isolation, and for escaping from the hospital during treatment," the report said.
The impact of Covid-19 extended to other areas of legislation as well, it observed.
"For example, some states enacted laws to bring changes in elections to local governments. Maharashtra enacted a law to postpone the elections to the offices of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of some municipal corporations.
"Kerala amended its panchayat and municipal laws to facilitate postal and direct voting for persons affected by Covid-19 or those in quarantine," the document observed.
Other legislative actions triggered by the pandemic included reducing salaries of legislators to conserve financial resources.
The World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 as a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, it noted.