by Garima Mehta


The following article deals with Legal Rights during quarantine and coronavirus. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. These people may have been exposed to a disease and do not know it, or they may have the disease but do not show symptoms.


Quarantine is a specific period of time in which a person or animal that has a disease, or may have one, must stay or be kept away from others in order to prevent the spread of the disease.

Quarantine is considered as the oldest mechanism to reduce the rapid spread of bacterial infections and viral onslaughts. It has been legally sanctioned by all jurisdictions in the world for the maintenance of public health and to control the transmission of diseases.

In present scenario, Quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms. People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department.

The current COVID-19 crisis, with its closure of shops, academic institutions and postponement of public examinations, has put the people in a de facto quarantine.

Coronavirus and COVID-19[ii]

COVID-19 is a disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 that can trigger what doctors call a respiratory tract infection. It can affect your upper respiratory tract (sinuses, nose, and throat) or lower respiratory tract (windpipe and lungs). It spreads mainly through person-to-person contact. Infections range from mild to deadly.

The virus can lead to pneumonia, respiratory failure, heart problems, liver problems, septic shock, and death. Many COVID-19 complications may be caused by a condition known as cytokine release syndrome or a cytokine storm. This is when an infection triggers your immune system to flood your bloodstream with inflammatory proteins called cytokines. They can kill tissue and damage your organs.

A contact in the context of COVID-19[iii]

A contact is defined as a healthy person that has been in such association with an infected person or a contaminated environment as to have exposed and is therefore at a higher risk of developing disease.

A person living in the same household as a COVID-19 case:

•A person having had direct physical contact with a COVID-19 case or his/her infectious secretions without recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) or with a possible breach of PPE.

•A person who was in a closed environment or had face to face contact with a COVID-19 case at a distance of within 1 metre including air travel.

The epidemiological link may have occurred within a 14‐day period before the onset of illness in the case under consideration.

Law in India in Relation with Quarantine[iv]

The legal framework in relation to tackling the current Pandemic situation and public health disaster arising out in India interpreted from major legislations-

  • The Constitution of India
  • The Epidemic Act 1897
  • The Disaster Management Act, 2005
  • The National Health Bill, 2009
  • Indian Aircraft (Public Health) Rules, 1954
  • Port Health Rules, 1955

The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, a law of colonial vintage, empowers the state to take special measures, including inspection of passengers, segregation of people and other special steps for the better prevention of the spread of dangerous diseases. It was amended in 1956 to confer powers upon the Central government to prescribe regulations or impose restrictions in the whole or any parts of India to control and prevent the outbreak of hazardous diseases. Quarantine is not an alien concept or strange action and it has been invoked several times during the bizarre situations caused by the cholera, smallpox, plague and other diseases in India.

Detection of a travel related/unrelated suspect case of novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID19) will be followed by rapid isolation of such cases in designated health facilities and line listing of all contacts of such cases. Home quarantine is applicable to all such contacts of a suspect or confirmed case of COVID-19.

This intervention will be limited to the initial phase of India reporting only:

  • travel related cases
  • focal clusters arising from a travel related/unrelated case where cluster containment strategy is adopted.
  • Persons coming from COVID-19 affected areas where local and community transmission is evident.

In our country, disobedience to quarantine rule is punishable under Section 271 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both. Failure to take requisite precautions despite being aware of the possibility of the spread of such infection or disease is punishable under Sections 269 and 270 of the IPC. Under Section 269, whoever unlawfully or negligently does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description up to six months or fine or with both fine and imprisonment.

Under Section 270, Whoever malignantly does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both. Malignancy is characterized in diseases that are highly virulent, infectious and life-threatening. Disobeying the norms prescribed for social distancing, coughing or sneezing without covering the nose and mouth, not wearing masks in public, disregarding norms for social isolation, loitering on the streets in groups, socializing in disregard of the prescribed regulations, etc. are all punishable offences under Section 270

We also have the Disaster Management Act, 2005 that provides for effective management of man-made and natural disasters which may result in substantial loss of life or human suffering. Biological disasters that may be caused by epidemics are covered under National Disaster Management Guidelines, 2008 for the management of biological disasters drafted by National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India. We also have a National Disaster management plan, 2019 to strengthen disaster resilient development and enhance our capacity to recover from them.

A Public Health (Prevention, Control and Management of Epidemics, Bio-terrorism and Disasters) Bill was drafted by the Ministry of Health and Family welfare in 2017 to empower local government bodies for taking swift action during emergency situations.

The coronavirus period will be counted as an emergency period. World Health Organization has declared novel coronavirus (COVID-19) “Pandemic”SARS-CoV-2, commonly known as COVID-19 is an airborne disease and has rapid contagious characteristics. The lockdown method seems to be the most adopted approach by countries across the globe in lieu of curbing the increase of COVID-19. The outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) first reported in December 2019 at Wuhan, China has now created a vulnerability in the entire World.

The novel corona virus (COVID-19) embarked on the Indian government to hone out public health strategy provided under national laws and policies. The incidence and prevalence ofCOVID-19 compelled the government to clamp the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, on March 11, 2020, by social distancing and the voluntary public curfew norm in the country.


The critical appraisal of Indian public health legislation reveals that the government has not discharged its constitutional obligation for the enactment of public health and emergency preparedness laws in epidemic-pandemicCOVID-19 like situations. The COVID-19 being a crisis, also served an opportunity to redress the long-standing reform of public health laws, but it passed as a great miss. The promulgation of the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, is seen to be aligned with 123 years old colonial legislation more as a criminal statute than that civilian approach to health care and equity.

Quarantine (June 25, 2021, 10:00AM)


Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic (June 25, 2021, 11:00 AM)


Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Contact tracing (June 25, 2021, 12:00 PM)


Coronavirus: The legal framework behind lockdown, curfew, and quarantine (June 25, 2021, 1:00 PM)


Picture: MarTech


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