For combating the pandemic, the Centre has used a 123-year-old Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897.
It has been used previously to contain the spread of various diseases including swine flu, cholera, malaria and dengue.
It’s a colonial-era law and it’s still intact in its original form.
There is still a lot of British legacy in the Indian legal system e.g. many colonial-era laws continue to exist in the statute. And over the years, governments have used those.
Former Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha P.D.T. Achary said, “There are many colonial laws which continue to exist, for example, the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Census which originated in a pre-independence era still continues, and the Famine Act also originated before independence. If the government thinks these laws are good enough to fit in the existing circumstances, then there is nothing wrong. It is for the government to decide on the relevance of the laws.”
The Law Commission usually helps the government in the amendment to a law to make it relevant. Although the current government has repealed many laws but has also retained some colonial-era laws.
The general view among legal experts seems to be that there is no need to amend laws just because those were enacted by the British.
Here is the provision from the epidemic diseases act 1897
Power to take special measures and prescribe regulations as to dangerous epidemic disease.—(1) When at any time the 7 [State Government] is satisfied that 7 [the State] or any part thereof is visited by, or threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease, the 8 [State Government], if 9 [it] thinks that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient for the purpose, may take, or require or empower any person to take, such me asures and, by public notice, prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by the public or by any person or class of persons as 9 [it] shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof, and may determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation if any) shall be defrayed. (2) In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions, the 7 [State Government] may take measures and prescribe regulations for— 10* * * * *
(b) the inspection of persons travelling by railway or otherwise, and the segregation, in hospital, temporary accommodation or otherwise, of persons suspected by the inspecting officer of being infected with any such disease.