COVID-19: Are India's Laws Sufficient to Fight the Pandemic?

Introduction:

With the whole world struggling to combat COVID-19, a pandemic that is yet to show its worst stage, economies are taking a nosedive. The crisis, according to the UN secretary Antonio Guterres, is the most challenging one since the Second World War. Legal Frameworks of many countries are not even prepared for a situation like this. In India, it becomes especially difficult to control the spread of the virus due to its huge population, understaffed healthcare system, and a large number of people dwelling in slums where the concept of social distancing doesn't even exist. Our Government is taking steps like travel bans, lockdowns, and rigorous testing to flatten the curve of the disease. However, does our country's legal system accommodate for these steps taken by the government, and are our laws sufficient to face the crisis?


Laws enforcing Social Distancing and Lockdown Measures at National Level:

At the national level, the law aiding the government to deal with the virus and to make provisions regarding the same is the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (hereafter, the DMA). It was enacted to efficiently manage disasters (natural or man-made) which would otherwise cause significant damage to lives and suffering to people. Although public health comes under the State list[1] in the Schedule 7 of the Constitution, and Centre can only play an advisory role, the aforementioned Act gives power of overriding state government orders to the centre through its Section 10[2] .

The government declared the pandemic as a “Notified Disaster” under Section 2(d) of the Act. Under the Section 6(2)(1) of the Act, the government called for