The Disaster Management Act 2005
The author of this blog is Prabhat Yadav, student of 2nd year BA LLB (Hons), SGT UNIVERSITY, GURUGRAM
The DM Act was passed by the government of India in 2005 for the efficient management of disasters and other matters connected to it or incidental. However it came into force in January 2006.It contains total 79 sections. The Objective of this Act is to manage disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building and more.
Definition of a “disaster” in Section 2 (d) of the DM Act states that a disaster means a “catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man made causes and which results in substantial loss to human life , sufferings ,damage to property , environment in such a way that is beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area.
Major Features of this Act:
The Act designates the Ministry of Home Affairs as the nodal ministry for steering the overall national disaster management.
Institutional Structure: It puts into place a systematic structure of institutions at three levels
National Level Entities:
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA):
It is constituted under Section 3 of the DM Act.It is tasked with laying down disaster management policies and ensuring timely and effective response mechanisms.
NDMA so far formulated 30 Guidelines on various disasters including the ‘Guidelines on Management of Biological Disasters, 2008’. The 2019 National Disaster Management Plan, issued also deals extensively with Biological Disaster and Health Emergency. This is the broad legal framework within which activities to contain COVID-19 are being carried out by the Union and State governments
Head: - Prime Minister
The National Executive Committee (NEC):
It is constituted under Section 8 of the DM Act to assist the National Disaster Management Authority in the performance of its functions.
The NEC is responsible for the preparation of the National Disaster Management Plan for the whole country and to ensure that it is “reviewed and updated annually.
Head: - Secretary in charge of Ministry or Department of central govt.
The National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM):
It is constituted under Section 42 of the DM Act.
It is an institute for training and capacity development programs for managing natural calamities.
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF):
It is constituted under Section 44 of DM Act.
It refers to trained professional units that are called upon for specialized response to disasters.
State and District level Entities:
The Act also provides for state and district level authorities responsible for, among other things, drawing plans for implementation of national plans and preparing local plans.
State Disaster Management Authority under section 14 of DM Act.
Head:- CM of the state
District Disaster Management Authority under Section 25 of DM Act.
Head:- District Magistrate / Collector
Finance related provisions:-
It contains the provisions for financial mechanisms such as the creation of funds for emergency response, National Disaster Response Fund under Section 46 , National Disaster Mitigating fund under Section 47 and similar funds at the state and district levels.
Civil and Criminal Liabilities:
The Act also devotes several sections various civil and criminal liabilities resulting from violation of provisions of the act.
Under Section 51 of the Act, anyone refusing to comply with orders is liable for punishment with imprisonment up to one year, or fine, or both. In case this refusal leads to death of people, the person liable shall be punished with imprisonment up to two years and also with fine.
Absence of Disaster Prone Zones:
One of the most glaring inadequacies in the Act is the absence of a provision for declaration of ‘disaster- prone zones’.
Almost all disaster related legislations in the world have mapped out disaster- prone zones within their respective jurisdictions.
The state cannot be expected to play a pro- active role unless an area is declared ‘disaster- prone’. Classification helps in determining the extent of damages as well.
Neglects Progressive Behavior of Disasters:
The Act portrays every disaster as a sudden occurrence and completely fails to take into account that disasters can be progressive in nature as well.
In 2006, over 3,500 people were affected by dengue, a disease with a history of outbreaks in India, yet no effective mechanism has been put in place to check such an ordeal.
Tuberculosis is known to kill thousands of people in the country each year but since its occurrence is not sudden or at once, it has not found a place in the Act.
The Act calls for establishment of multiple- national level bodies, the functions of which seem to be overlapping, making coordination between them cumbersome.
The local authorities, who have a very valuable role to play in the wake of any disaster as first responders, barely find a mention at all. There are no substantive provisions to guide them, merely a minor reference to taking ‘necessary measures’.
Procedural Delays and Inadequate Technology:
Added to that, delayed response, inappropriate implementation of the plans and policies, and procedural lags plague the disaster management scheme in India.
Inadequate technological capacity for accurate prediction and measurement of the disaster result in large scale damage.
We have discussed above the Disaster Management ACT 2005. It establish authorities at different levels for the disaster management. On March 14, 2020 the Central Government termed COVID-19 as a ‘notified disaster’ as a “critical medical condition or pandemic situation”. NDMA issued social distancing guidelines within the meaning of DMA. Additional guidelines were issued on the same day by the Ministry of Home Affairs, being the Ministry having administrative control of disaster management (S. 10(2) (l)). On March 24, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nation-wide lockdown, from Mar. 25, 2020 to Apr. 14, 2020. The Ministry of Home Affairs invoked Section 6 (2)(i) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and issued an order on Mar. 24, 2020, directing the ministries or departments of Government of India, state and union territory governments and authorities to implement the measures laid down in the central order.
Now there are two important legal questions here. Firstly, is the lockdown and the manner in which it is being implemented valid? Secondly, is the procedure under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 being followed properly and, are the restrictions placed therein valid?
There is no violation of fundamental rights as the lockdown is concerned, right to life being the most sacrosanct right takes precedence over all other rights in a scenario like Covid-19.
This Act enables the Centre and States to enforce a lockdown and restrict public movement. It allows the Government to get access to the National Disaster Response Fund, the
State Disaster Response Fund and the District Disaster Response Fund. It also has provisions for allocation of resources for prevention, mitigation, capacity building. The necessary evil, lockdown has certainly brought certain adverse effects on the economy, but we cannot forget lessons of the Great Plague of Marseille i.e. need to balance economics and existence of human race. The balancing of requirements resulted into Lockdowns 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0 i.e. the gradual easing of the restrictions. So therefore the procedures of DMA is followed properly by the government.