What Should a Public Health Emergency Law for India Look Like?: A White Paper

Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy

The White Paper is the result of a year-long research project by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy where we tracked legal responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. The paper analyzes the philosophical basis of the State’s responsibility to act during pandemics, creates an analytical model on the basis of the law’s role in public health, uses this analytical model to analyze both comparative laws in six jurisdictions and existing laws in India. Lastly, through four case studies – lockdown and movement restriction, contact tracing, testing, and medical treatment – it evaluates India’s response to the pandemic. In the end, the paper raises various questions for consideration the answers to which should guide any reform of public health emergency laws in India. We hope to discuss the paper with key stakeholders in the coming months to take forward the conversation on the reform of public health emergency laws.


Some of the key questions that the White Paper raises include: a. Should we have a detailed central public health emergency law or an overarching central law with detailed state public health emergency laws? b. Should we create new authorities for public health emergency preparedness and response or should we rely on existing ones? c. What should be the degree of specificity in such a law? Should it be a framework law or should it go into details regarding State power and duties? d. What accountability and monitoring mechanisms should the law prescribe? Should Courts be responsible for this or should there be an independent authority or should the law create its own internal grievance redressal mechanisms? e. How should the law approach individual rights and the principle of proportionality in pandemic-response?
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