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This article is written by Abhinav Rana, a student of USLLS, GGSIPU. The article discusses the Disaster Management Act, 2005 with respect to COVID-19.


Recently, the World Health Organisation has declared COVID-19 as a Pandemic. It means it’s occurring over a huge geographical area and out of control. As the situation is getting worse, the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi took active measures to protect the nation from this disease.

On March 24, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the nation-wide lockdown, from March 25, 2020, to April 14, 2020, and now the lockdown has been extended further till 3rd May 2020. The announcement was made due to COVID-19 and it is intended to enhance the concept of “social distancing” to prevent the spread of the disease. 

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The order was passed by the National Disaster Management Authority in the exercise of its power under Section 6(2)(i) of Disaster Management Act, 2005, [Order no. 1-29/2020-PP (pt. II) dated 24.03.2020]. The order also stated that according to the Section 10(2)(I) of the Act, the Home Secretary in his capacity as Chairperson, National Executive Committee, issued guidelines to the departments of the government, State/ Union Territory to issue strict implementations.

The Centre has imposed a complete lockdown for 21 days. Under the Disaster Management Act, the Union Home Ministry has directed that all the districts and state borders should be sealed. No one should be seen across the cities or highways. For its implementation, district magistrates and police superintendents are responsible. The states have been asked to make the necessary arrangements of items such as food and shelter for poor people. 

Significance of development of the Disaster Management Act

At the global level, there has been considerable concern about natural resources disasters. Even if there is substantial scientific and material progress, the loss of lives and property due to inevitable disasters has not decreased. In fact, the human and economic losses have increased. It was in this context that the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, declared the 1990-2000 decade as the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction with the aim of reducing the loss of life and property and to limit socioeconomic damage through international action, especially in developing countries.

In the past years, the government of India has shifted the approach to disaster management. The new approach is part of the conviction that development cannot be sustainable unless disaster mitigation is built into the development process. Another keystone of the approach is that mitigation should be interdisciplinary in all aspects of development sectors. The new policy is based on the opinion that mitigation investments are much more economical than spending on aid and rehabilitation.

The emergence of an organization is always through an evolutionary process. NDMA has also gone through the same phases. The Government of India, while identifying the importance of Disaster Management as a major concern, formed the High-Powered Committee in August 1999 and a National Committee after the disastrous Bhuj earthquake occurred in 2001, in Gujarat, for making recommendations on the preparation of Disaster Management plans and suggesting effective mitigation mechanisms. 

The tenth, 5 years Plan document also had a detailed chapter on Disaster Management for the first time. The 12th Finance Commission was also instructed to evaluate the financial preparations for Disaster Management.

On 23rd December 2005, the Indian Government enacted the DM Act, 2005, which provided for the creation of the NDMA headed by the Prime Minister, and the SDMA, led by the respective CM of the different states, to lead and implement a holistic and integrated approach to disaster management in India.

Salient features of Disaster Management Act, 2005

The Disaster Management Act, 2005 came to force on 26th December 2005. It permits states to have their own legislation on disaster management. The Act comprises 11 Chapters and 79 Sections. It defines Disaster and disaster management in its own way. It provides an institutional mechanism for monitoring and implementation of the plans. It also ensures measures by various parts of the Government for the prevention and reduction of disasters. 

The Act under Section 3 provides for the establishment of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Under Section 14 of the said Act, the State governments shall create State Disaster Management Authorities and Section 25 talks about the constitution of District Disaster Management Authorities. The Act also provides for Disaster Response Fund and Disaster Mitigation Fund at national, state and district levels.

Since the enactment of the disaster management law in 2005, it has adopted a new multidisciplinary focus on disaster prevention and risk reduction and has moved away from a relief-centred regime.

  • The institutional structure under the Law required the creation of the National Disaster Management Authority and the state disaster management authorities as bodies responsible for disaster preparedness and risk reduction at the respective levels.
  • The Disaster Management Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs maintained the responsibility for directing the disaster response overall.
  • And instructed the Ministries and Departments involved to prepare their own plans, in accordance with the National Plan.
  • The Act also contains provisions for financial procedures, such as the creation of funds, the National Disaster Mitigation Fund and similar funds at the state and district levels.
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National Disaster Management Authority

It is an apex statutory body created for disaster management in India. It was constituted on 27th September 2006. According to the Disaster Management Act, 2005 the PM acts as the chairperson of NDMA. He further appoints 9 members for the committee. The main function of NDMA is to make policies, plans, and guidelines for minimising the effect of disasters. It also gave guidelines on the minimum standard of reliefs such as to provide shelters, food, clothes and all the basic necessities. It also lay down special provisions for widows and orphans. This authority is assisted by the National Executive Committee.

National Executive Committee

  • The National Executive Committee is constituted under Section 8 of the DM Act, 2005 to assist the National Authority in the performance of its functions.
  • The Home Secretary is the former chairman.
  • The NEC has been tasked with acting as a department responsible for risk management, preparation of the National Plan, monitoring of the implementation of the National Policy and more.

State Disaster Management Authority

  • The State Disaster Management Authority is managed by the Chief Minister.
  • One of the members is elected as the Vice-Chairperson of the State Authority by the Chief Minister of that state.
  • Advisory Committee of experts may be made by state authority.
  • The State is responsible for the policies and plans for disaster management.
  • The State Authority shall provide guidelines for minimum standards of relief.

Functions of SDMA

  • Establish disaster management policies and plans for;
  • Establish a state disaster management policy;
  • Approved state plans in accordance with national plan guidelines;
  • Establish guidelines to be followed by state departments;
  • The Act maintains that the CM, in an emergency, would have the power to exercise all or some of the powers of the State Authority, but the exercise of such powers will be subject to ex post facto ratification by the State Authority.

District Disaster Management Authority

  • Section 25 of the DM Act provides for the constitution of DDMA for all districts in a state.
  • The District Magistrate / District Collector / Deputy Commissioner heads the Authority as Chairperson, in addition to an elected representative of the local authority as Co-Chairperson, except in the tribal areas where the Chief Executive Member of the District Council for the Autonomous District is designated as Co-Chairperson.
  • In addition, in the district, where Zila Parishad exists, its Chairperson will be the DDMA Co-Chairperson.
  • The District Authority is responsible for planning, coordinating and implementing disaster management and for taking the necessary measures for disaster management, as set out in the guidelines.
  • The District Authority also has the power to examine construction in any area of ​​the district to apply safety standards and provide relief measures and respond to a disaster at the district level.

National Institute for Disaster Management

The National Institute for Disaster Management was established as a statutory body under the DM Act. It is responsible for planning and encouraging training and research in the area of disaster management, documentation and development of an information base at the national level related to disaster management, prevention procedures and measures to reduce it. Its main functions include:

  • Development of training material.
  • Formulate a comprehensive human resources plan.
  • Provide inputs to governments.
  • Develop educational materials for disaster management.
  • Promote awareness.

Disaster Management Act, 2005 w.r.t. COVID-19

India reported its first case of Coronavirus on 30th January 2020. Since that day the precautions were taken by our government. On 11th March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as Pandemic. Our government has taken various steps to minimise the effect of this Novel Coronavirus disease. In January itself the Union Government invoked its power under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 to increase the preparedness of COVID-19 at the hospitals.

It enabled the states to use funds from the State Disaster Response Fund. In March, the Ministry of Health advised invoking Section 2 of Epidemic Disease Act, 1897. On 24 March 2020, PM Narendra Modi called for a 21 days lockdown. As soon as the lockdown was imposed the Union Health Ministry gave a list of the penal provisions of Disaster Management Act, 2005 under which the person not abiding the government will be held liable [Order no. 40-3/2020-D dated ()24.03.2020].

Section 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 provides for the offences relating to false claims, obstructions, warnings etc. The maximum punishment under these offences is up to two years with fine.

Section 188 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 may also be invoked in case of disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servants. The violation of this said Section is punishable up to six months and/or a fine of Rs 1000.

Now, let’s discuss the above-mentioned Sections of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 in detail which are in direct relation to COVID-19.

Section 51: Whoever without the reasonable reason obstructs any officer or employee of the union or state government or a person authorised by National, State, District Authority in the discharge of his functions under this Act; or refuse to obey the guidelines of union or state government or a person authorised by National, State, District Executive Authority, Shall be convicted with a punishment which may extend to one year or with fine or with both, and also if such disobedience or refusal leads to the danger of the life of someone or imminent danger can be punished with imprisonment extended up to 2 years.

Section 52: Whoever makes any false claim which he knows is false or has a reason to believe to be false may be punished for imprisonment which may extend up to 2 years and with fine.

Section 53: Whoever being entrusted with money or material for providing relief during the time of the disaster, misappropriates or converts to his own use such money or material shall be liable for imprisonment which may extend up to two years and also with fine.

Section 54: Whoever makes or circulates any false information or warning as to disaster which leads to panic shall be liable for punishment which may extend to 1 year or with the fine.

Section 55: When an offence is committed under this Act by a department of government the head of the department shall be held guilty of the offence unless he proves that such act was done without his knowledge or that he took all precautions to avoid such offence.

If an offence is committed as mentioned in Sub-section (1) and it is proved that any officer other than the head of the department has been indulged in this offence shall be deemed guilty and shall be liable for the offence.

Section 56: Any officer upon whom the duty has been imposed by this Act refuses to perform his duty without the permission of his official superior or has other lawful excuse be liable for punishment which may extend to 1 year or with the fine.

Section 57: If any person disobeys any order made under Section 65 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 he shall be liable for punishment which may extend to 1 year or with the fine.

Section 58: When an offence under this Act is committed by a company or corporate body, every person who at the time the offence is committed was responsible and was responsible for the company for the conduct of the company’s business, as well as the company will be found guilty of the misdemeanour and should be prosecuted and punished accordingly; in cases where a company has committed an offence under this law and it is proved that it was committed with the consent or collusion or if there is any negligence on the part of any director, manager, secretary or other officers the said director, manager, the secretary will also be found guilty of the offence and will be punished.

Section 59: No punishment of the offence made under Section 55,56 shall be made without the order by the central government or any other officer authorised or by the order of government.

Section 60: No court shall take cognisance of the offence under this Act except on a complaint made by:

(a) National, state authority, union or state government, district authority or any other authority authorised by the government;

(b) any person who has notified not less than least thirty days in the prescribed manner, of the alleged offence and their intention to lodge a complaint with the National Authority, the State Authority, the Central Government, the Central Government, the State Government, the District Authority or any other authorized authority or official as mentioned above.


The rate at which the cases of COVID-19 are increasing is a matter of high concern. We need to be ready with solutions and strategic planning to address the risk issues that may arise due to the rapid spread of a global disease that currently has no vaccine and no cure. So while concluding we can say that as the whole world is going through such a disaster we need to take preventive measures to be safe. The Government has taken the preventive measure and made necessary arrangements possible so that we can be safe in our homes. 

The provisions of Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 has been enforced along with the provision of Essential Commodities Act, 1955 and Disaster Management Act, 2005. Anyone disobeying the law and rules and regulations will be punished according to the provisions of Disaster Management Act, 2005 and Indian Penal Code, 1860. If we do not follow these guidelines, we will not only threaten our lives, but the lives of others will also be put at risk. At the same time, we need to spread awareness among the common masses and burst all the myths surrounding the coronavirus. We must remember prevention is better than cure.

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