Legal Fight Against COVID-19

Anik Hasan Siddiquee

Mr. Siddiquee completed his Masters in Maritime Law from BSMRMU,B; LL.M from Rajshahi University and his LL.B from BRAC University, Bangladesh. He is now working on BRAC Bank Ltd.

Not all angels have wings some have stethoscopes. It is going to be harder day by day to find out the way to show gratitude to the workers on the coronavirus front lines, especially to the medical professionals. Though medical professionals play the role of the front line to cure of contagious diseases. However, sometimes it creates a horrendous situation that the authorities need some legal instruments by which they can call health emergency to prevent, control and eliminate those diseases. Such as suddenly, on 16 April, 2020, Government of Bangladesh had declared the entire country as a risky area of COVID-19 infection through an order issued by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) for the raising of awareness, preventing, controlling and eliminating of this pandemic infectious diseases by addressing public health emergencies and reducing health risks. Now, a question comes in our mind that what is the legal basis of this action taken by Government.

That’s why, with the aim of tackling public health emergencies caused by infectious diseases, checking and eradicating all contagious diseases, Parliament of Bangladesh has enacted one of such kind of legal instrument on 14 November, 2018 titled as The Infectious Disease (Prevention, Control and Elimination) Act, 2018 by amalgamating four laws namely the Epidemic Disease Act 1897, the Public Health (Emergency Provisions) Ordinance 1944, the Bangladesh Malaria Eradication Board (Repeal) Ordinance, 1977 and the Prevention of Malaria (Special Provisions) Ordinance, 1978. Accordingly, those laws are repealed by this Act. Even, related provisions of the Penal Code, 1860 regarding the negligently and malignantly spread of infectious diseases or disobedience of quarantine rule respectively stated in the Section 269, 270 and 271 become inoperative by this Act because of non-obstante clause under the provision of Section 3 of this Act. [18 CLC (AD) 1895].

Along with the health emergencies, this Act covers the prevention of these infectious diseases and directs steps to create mass awareness on microorganisms. Section of 4 of the said Act had enlisted 23 microorganisms which cause infectious diseases at the time of enactment. Additionally, an option has been incorporated by this Section for the Government to enlisted more emerging or reemerging diseases through a declaration by in the official Gazette. By virtue of this option, when coronavirus pandemic was confirmed to have spread to Bangladesh in March 2020, Government has easily incorporated the life-threatening novel coronavirus (COVID-19) into this list to get a legal power to take action against the people not following the government’s directions regarding it.

Hence, under the provision of the Section 11(1), the Director-General of Health Services (DGHS) can declare any local area or area of ​​Bangladesh which has been infected or infected by an infectious disease, has been reasonably suspected or products, houses, courtyards, dwellings or vehicles used by an infected person to eradicate or limit the spread of infection. Thus, the DG Health declared the entire country as a risky area of COVID-19 infection on 16 April, 2020.

From the beginning, we have been heard the word “Quarantine”. This is a process by which authorities can separate the people or groups of people or goods who don’t have symptoms but were showing to the sickness and impose some restrictions on their movement with the intention of preventing the spread of disease. This power is conferred under Section 11(2) of this Act upon the DG Health to create a restriction for the infected person or any other person in the infected place to reduce or eliminate any infectious disease immediately by taking proper health care measures and Section 14 deals with isolation of a diseased person. Along with it, this Act also empowers the authorities to inspect any place on suspecting the presence of an infectious disease or germs, to disinfect or closure of infected sites or establishments after confirming the presence of infectious diseases in any place or establishment, to destruct the suspected establishment, and to confiscate a vehicle, utilities or animal with presumed to have been infected.

Side by side, some provisions are incorporated for punishing the person committed offence under this Act. Such as, two months imprisonment or a fine of up to twenty-five thousand taka or both will be maximum punishment for committing an offence of giving false or incorrect information deliberately despite knowing the correct information about the infectious disease, six months imprisonment or a fine not exceeding one lakh taka or both will be maximum punishment for committing an offence of helping to spread or to spread the infectious germs and three months imprisonment or a fine not exceeding fifty thousand taka or both will be the maximum punishment for committing an offence of obstructing or hindering the government officials from discharging any duty conferred on them. The Code of Criminal Procedure shall apply as a procedural law for filing, investigating, trialing and settling of appeals for any offence committed under this Act which shall be non-cognizable, bailable and compoundable in nature. As a result, authorities can easily take strict legal measures to prevent, control and eliminate those diseases.

Though it is the statutory obligation of the Government to raise awareness, prevent, control and eliminate of this pandemic infectious disease, still as citizen of the republic we have some responsibilities and obligations towards our country. All in all, we have to protect ourselves from this pandemic infectious disease and committing offence as well. Thus, we should be respectful to the decisions come from Government and to the laws as well. Stay Home, Stay Safe and Respect the Law of the State.

  • <Infectious Disease (Prevention, Control and Elimination) Act, 2018; For full text: Click Here
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