• Kakoli Nath

COVID 19: YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS IN A QUARANTINE

Corona Virus Disease-2019, i.e., COVID-19, is no more unknown to almost the whole world, including India. The disease caused by novel corona-virus (SARS-CoV-2) has also been declared as pandemic on March 11th, 2020, by the World Health Organization. Moreover, on April 1st, 2020, the U.N. Secretary-General said, "COVID-19" is more catastrophic than the Second World War. The main reason for its spreading is that no one has found its anti-corona vaccine or medical treatment. But, being in the modern era, we can't leave all to God, and we, ourselves, took upon some precautions and also made some guidelines to follow. On the different stages of COVID-19, nations also follow the form of isolation, quarantine, lock-down, and curfew as the situation arises.



For further study, only the stage of quarantine is taken into consideration hereafter.


Meaning and Evolution of the word 'Quarantine': In general, a quarantine is 'strict isolation imposed to prevent the spread of disease.' The practice of quarantine specifically involves: '...the separation of a person or group of the people reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease but not yet symptomatic, from others who have not been so exposed, to prevent the possible spread of communicable disease.', explained by the CDC, i.e., Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.



In the early 1600s, this 'isolation' sense of quarantine comes from the Italian 'quarantine', a period of 40days, derived from 'Quaranta', the Italian for 'forty.' Historically, a quarantine referred to a period of 40days, imposed upon ships when suspected of carrying an infectious or contagious disease. This practice was done in Venice in the 1300s in an effort to stave off the plague.[1]



Implementation of 'Quarantine': Each nation has its national laws, including general law and local laws, for its implementation. For e.g., the federal govt. Of U.S. derives its authority for quarantine from the commerce clause (Sec. 264-272) of the U.S. Constitution. Under Sec. 361 of the Public Health Service Act, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services is authorized to take measures to prevent the entry and spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the U.S and between states. This authority for carrying out these functions on a daily basis, subject to 42Code of Federal Regulations Parts 70 and 71, has been delegated to CDC.


As similar, in India, the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, a law of colonial vintage, empowers the state to take special measures including segregation of people and other special steps for the better prevention of the spread of dangerous diseases. It was also amended in 1956 to confer powers upon the central govt to prescribe regulations and impose restrictions and so on.

But in India, it does not have any specific legal framework to the same, and with this attention, the Central Government in the form of NDMA and MHA by using their respective powers enshrined under Sec. 6(2)(i) and Sec. 10(2)(1) of DMA, 2005 respectively, declared orders and guidelines of lock-down during such a medical emergency.


That's why, here, in particular, in reference to India, the actions taken upon by the Central and State govt. And the respective rights of the citizens and foreigners towards such actions have been taken into consideration for further study.

Since it is a basic concept of the jurisprudence that 'rights and duties are parallelisms to each other,' thus the duties and powers performed by the authorities, each person gets right of the fulfillment of the regulation and guidelines also.



In regard to the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897: Sec. 4 of the same act provides the right to exemption from legal proceedings to persons working in good faith subject to the object of the same act.


In regard to Aircraft Act, 1934: As during this period, the Central Govt. has taken upon action subject to the powers enshrined under Sec. 8B r/w Sec. 6 of the same act, the affected persons have the right to ask for compensation under Sec. 6(2) of the same act.


In regard to the Disaster Management Act, 2005: As already stated, the form of lock-down came into implementation by enforcing the powers enshrined in the same act. But, here also, the people are provided with some of the legal rights like minimum requirements shall be provided in the relief came/ quarantine area under Sec. 12 & 19; right to equality as per Sec. 61, right to knowledge/ to be communicated of warning of disaster situation under Sec. 67, right to immunity to persons working in good faith as per Sec. 71& 72.


In regard to Indian Penal Code, 1860: As the Sec. 268, 269, 270, 271 of the IPC provides the punishment to cause a public nuisance, to spread infection of disease dangerous to life negligently or malignantly, to disobey the quarantine rule respectively. Thus one has legal rights against the other who commits such offenses.


In regard to the Constitution of India: As still, it is a questionable issue that whether this situation comes under the ambit of national emergency or not since the subject of 'public health and sanitation; hospitals and dispensaries' come under the 6point of state list under the 7th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, but then also some rights are restricted to some limit which is provided under the constitution as provided under Art. 19(1)(a), 19(1)(b), 19(1)(d), 25. But, at the same time, the legal rights which are still provided, as followed:


1) Protection in respect of conviction for offences under Art. 20; 2) right to health[2]3) special treatment to prisoners against inhuman conditions in after-care homes, 4) rights of patients in cataract surgery camps, 5) right to get immediate medical aid to injured persons, 6) right to get blood from blood-banks and availability of blood products, 7) right to wages(livelihood), 8) right to food, 9) right to shelter, 10) right to medical care, 11) right to get care homes under Art. 21; 12) right to file a writ petition under Art. 32. Along with these rights, there are two rights, which are still allowed to persons, i.e., 1) right to privacy and life with reputation, 2) right to die. These two rights here emphasized to seek the consideration towards issue where the list of quarantine has been published online, which leads to breach of privacy and trust, including the issue of stigma, harassment, and racism. And second right is related to the situation of committing suicide due to a fear of spreading disease and its outcomes.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic,

Social and Cultural Rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights also provides the right related to the same.



Conclusion: As it is found from our legal framework, we don't have specific laws related to the existing situation. But with the help of established rules and legislature, our Govt. has made some regulations and guidelines to follow, which can help us to prevent the spreading of disease. Where the appropriate authority is constituted, enshrined with power, and provided with provisions of punishment to the person who disobeys the rules. Thus, generally, we are bound more than our free area. But, since it is also done for us, we should follow the rules and guidelines while remembering that our legal rights should not be violated.

So it is time to concentrate the mind on both lines "the safety of the people shall be the highest law.'' and "if we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable." simultaneously.



SUBMITTED BY-

Payal Agrawal

S. S. Jain Subodh Law College, Rajasthan University, Jaipur

[1] https://www.dictionary.com/e/quarantine-vs-isolation

[2] State of Punjab v. Mohinder Singh Chawla (1997) 2 SCC 83

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