The current global pandemic has not only caused chaos worldwide, but also in Pakistan, in particular, the province of Sindh since it was initially the epic center of the CoVid -19 in Pakistan. Consequently, after the World Health Organization labelled the CoViD -19 a pandemic (defined as “an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people”), the Government of Sindh took urgent and drastic measures to lock down the entire province of Sindh and restrict activities therein to prevent the spread of the CoViD – 19 by virtue of the Order No: SO(J-I)/HD/8-1(04)/2020-Corona dated April 02, 2020 issued by the Government of Sindh Home Department (the “Order”).
However, one question which may come in the mind of any person, in particular, a law student, is that under what law has the Government of Sindh issued the Order which has deprived people of, inter alia, their legal right to liberty, movement, to do lawful business and conduct other lawful activities?
By way of background, Pakistan is a country with a written constitution. Which means that the Constitution of Pakistan (the “Constitution”) is the supreme doctrine from which all powers, including, law making powers, are derived. Accordingly, under the Constitution, the Provincial Assembly of Sindh has the power to make law within their area of competence for the province of Sindh, including health matters.
In view of the foregoing, the Provincial Assembly of Sindh enacted the Sindh Epidemic Diseases Act, 2014 (the Act) for the purposes of consolidating the law relating to the prevention of spread of dangerous epidemic disease.
Pursuant to Section 2(a) of the Act, “disease” is defined as follows:
“(a) “disease” means the dangerous epidemic diseases;” (emphasis added)
Whilst the term “epidemic disease” is not defined under the Act, applying a literal perspective, the CoViD – 19 can be labelled as an epidemic disease. This is further fortified by the fact that it has been deemed as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. Consequently, the powers granted under the Act can be applied to prevent the outbreak of the CoVid-19.
Accordingly, based on our review of the Sections 3(1) and (2) of the Act, the Government of Sindh has the power to “take or require or empower any person to take, such measures and, by public notice, prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by the public or by any person or class of persons as it shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof” including “inspection of persons traveling by railway or otherwise, and the segregation, in hospital, temporary accommodation or otherwise, of persons suspected” of being infected by the disease.
In view of the above, it is clear that the Act empowers the Government of Sindh to take any temporary measures in order to prevent the outbreak of the CoViD – 19 and these measures may include restriction of movement of persons without legitimate reason within the province of Sindh, closure of businesses (other than essential businesses) and closure of schools, places of entertainment including cinemas, restaurants etc. Therefore, in our view, it can safely be stated that Order is legitimate and cannot be challenged on the grounds of being ultra vires.
Finally, any citizen having read the above would venture to think about the consequences of breaching such Order. In this regard, Section 4 of the Act is relevant and states that “any person disobeying any regulation or order made under this Act shall be deemed to have committed an offence punishable under section 188 of the Pakistan Penal Code.”. By way of information, the Pakistan Penal Code contains all offences which can be charged in Pakistan and Section 188 of the Pakistan Penal Code clearly specifies that any breach of the Order would result in either imprisonment for up to 1 month and / or a fine or if the breach results in, inter alia, endangerment of human life, health or safety then the terms of imprisonment can go up to six months along with a fine at the discretion of the judge.
It is also pertinent to understand that pursuant to Section 188 of the PPC, the offender is not required to have any intent to produce harm or contemplate his disobedience as likely to produce harm, it is only sufficient that the offender knows of the Order and his disobedience produces or is likely to produce harm.
In light of the above and by way of conclusion, as a citizen of Pakistan, one should always understand their legal rights and if any such right (in our case including the right of liberty and to conduct lawful business) is deprived under any law enacted by any authority. A citizen should first research and find the base law under which such power is given, and thereafter read that relevant law and determine whether the power has been exercised lawfully or not. If it has been exercised lawfully, the deprivation of legal rights is justified and citizens need to abide by such laws (in our case the Order).
Finally, as law abiding citizens, we should support the Government of Sindh in its effort to prevent the outbreak of the Covid -19 by staying indoors and encouraging others to do the same.
 Last JM, editor. A dictionary of epidemiology, 4th edition. New York: Oxford University Press; 2001