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  • Writer's pictureMandavi Banerjee

Can we call China to bear the reparations for the pandemic?

Dipti Gabriel, Student, School of Law, CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru

In India, with a share of almost 90 per cent of people working in the informal economy, about 400 million workers in the informal economy are at risk of falling deeper into poverty during the crisis. -International Labour Organisation[1]


The fatal coronavirus outbreak initiated in the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China at the beginning of the year 2020[2], which sprang from animals to humans in a nearly short period of time; not to mention that these wet markets include the illegal sale of wild animals which makes it quite obvious to introduce contamination. Instead, as per the scientists and researchers of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Institute for Brain Research[3], the virus had spread from outside the market. Hence the information related to the origin of such a deadly virus is not figured out even when thousands of people have died, and most of the economies have shattered. On the other hand, the deliberate cover-up of the evidence of this epidemic has been proved to be a matter of public record, by defeating the data of the virus, not taking optimal measures to prevent the same in the previous critical days, resulting in the escalation of the same not only in China but also in more than a hundred nations in the world including Italy, Iran, the US which are seemed to be majorly hit. The Communist Party-led nation even hindered the information regarding the virus that had to be communicated to the world and also prevented the inspection by the World Health Organisation in Wuhan.[4]

In the course of the pandemic, only a few are emphasising on accountability. Beijing cannot be condemned for the outbreak being ultra vires its control. However, most negatively, the fact that the virus could be transmitted from person-to-person was concealed till January 20th seems to be blameworthy. The suppressing of the early warnings, as spoken by Doctor Li Wenliang in Wuhan, and thereby reprimanding the whistleblowers for informing the truth, Chinese officials still insist on not having any reason to fall for the transmitting of the virus among people. China is seen to have a history of mismanaging outbreaks; taking SARS for example in 2002 and 2003[5] which had a significant impact on most of the Asian countries, but this pandemic has been proved to be far more exacerbating that China could spread.

Apropos the legality for the spread of novel coronavirus, China has violated the International Health Regulations of 2005, as laid down by the World Health Organisation particularly in Articles 6 and 7[6], which lay down the obligations for duly notifying and providing information to the World Health Organisation regarding any events or contagious cases which relate to a contagious public emergency, to which China failed to act accordingly. This treaty has an imperative role as it aims to combat the spread of infectious diseases, thereby helping the international community. If we study the ratio laid down in the United Kingdom v. Albania[7], also called as the Corfu Channel case, the International Court of Justice held that no state should allow the use of its territory for any acts which contravenes to the rights of other states. In this sense, China is obligated towards other nations for the outbreak.

Does the question lie as to should China be tried before the International Court of Justice given the situation being built by its conduct?

Considering the WHO Constitution, a series of violations can also be seen with respect to China’s conduct. Article 21[8] defines that the World Health Assembly shall have the authority to adopt regulations concerning quarantine requirements to prevent the spread of any infectious diseases among nations, and Article 22[9] which defines the requirement of providing a due notice for such adoptions by the Assembly. China is seen to have violated even Article 63[10] of the same, which obligates a nation to communicate appropriately to the organisation the essential laws and statistics concerning health published in the concerned state. One can also claim the violation of Article 64[11] of the WHO constitution, which obligates the nations to provide for statistical and epidemiological data reports to be determined by the Assembly.

Not only China has failed to perform it is a prior and critical duty towards other nations for preventing this pandemic but has also created a huge picture in the violations of human rights in most of the economies. These violations can be commonly defined as censorship, arbitrary detention, discrimination and most importantly, xenophobia[12]. As per Amnesty International, human rights violation does not facilitate but only hinders any responses towards such health emergencies.

As a general rule, countries like China follow the judicial doctrine of sovereign immunity which means that a sovereign state cannot be sued in the courts of another sovereign state without the state’s consent. Nevertheless, if we look upon the conduct of China concerning Article 1[13] of the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts of 2001, as laid down by the International Law Commission; any wrongful act by a state having an international impact is to entail the responsibility for the same. Article 2[14] states that any such event or act will be considered wrongful internationally only when such act or event is attributable to the State and creates its obligation under international law. Here, China is seen to have violated the same as it was the obligation of the nation to inform about the outbreak to the WHO the moment it was known that the virus could be spread from humans to humans.

To have an overall look at all the violations by the pandemic originating country, and not to mention various infringements in several fields as well, China should be tried before the International Court of Justice and should be claimed damages by whatsoever means possible. This suit would require massive imperative cooperation internationally along with willpower for its implementation. However, this must be done in order to prevent another pandemic.

We can observe a range of actions taken against the pandemic throughout the world. A group of individual US citizens have launched a particular signature campaign to bring a suit in the state of Florida which seeks compensation from Beijing for Covid-19 aftermaths. Even US President Donald Trump has imposed tariffs in early March on aluminium and steel in a way to protect those American industries in order to increase the production back in the economy and also protect US jobs; after the great fall of the economy caused due to the pandemic[15].

Taking into account the repercussions of the pandemic on the Indian Economy, the country, much the same as different nations is altogether under lockdown because of which not so much as a fourth of India's $2.8 trillion economy is working. Along these lines, there is a presumption of losing over $4.5 billion regularly during the lockdown. To look on the more splendid side, a significant number of individuals are in any event, recuperating from the infection on account of the astounding collaboration by the specialists and government authorities everywhere throughout the nation; however, it stays as a littler proportion when contrasted with the number of patients expanding.

In the sectorial sector, the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) which owes 30% contribution to economic development, is now totally out of action. Nevertheless, the government has regarded ₹20,000 crores for this sector including other sectors like real estate, aviation, tourism and automobiles which is a view can pull up the economy back to its development process to a certain level[16].

The status of the health sector in India is already degrading being a developing nation, and the impact of the pandemic in such a populous nation is even worsening. The private health sector is facing many challenges, whether it is for the provision of ventilators, workforce, hospital beds, testing equipment, pharmaceuticals and other consumables[17].


In we see domestically in any country, the effect of this infection is prompting a fall in the economy, which is not a simple undertaking to modify, particularly in creating nations like India. Likewise, there is a considerable fall sought after locally itself.[18] With the pace of joblessness getting expanded, the buying intensity of the people is being dissolved. It is not each other day when an infringement of universal law supposedly is occurring. Regardless of the tenet of sovereign resistance and that the infection could not have been halted as it was outside the ability to control of the Communist-Party drove the country, it despite everything should be made subject for the costs which other incredible countries need to endure due to its careless direct of not having the option to appropriately educate or give alerts or cautioning about the transmission of the infection among people, which could have forestalled this slaughter to in any event a particular breaking point. So in this pandemic which has cost almost a vast number of passings in such vast numbers of nations, broken significant economies and created countries, China caused the humongous result, which should be altogether acknowledged by any convenient way. If there would be any situation where equity ought to be done, at that point, this ought to be it.


[1] ILO on Indian economy in pandemic, available at; last seen on 20/04/2020 [2] Origin of coronavirus, available at; last seen on 22/04/2020 [3] Virus did not originate in Wuhan, available at; last seen on 21/04/2020 [4] Negligence by China in pandemic, available at; last seen on 20/04/2020 [5] Misinformation spread by China, available at; last seen on 20/04/2020 [6] International Health Regulations, available at; last seen on 21/04/2020 [7] 15 XII 49 [8] WHO Constitution, available at; last seen on 22/04/2020 [9] Ibid [10] Ibid [11] Ibid [12] Violations during the pandemic, available at; last seen on 27/04/2020 [13] Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts of 2001, available at; last seen on 23/04/2020 [14] Ibid [15] Trade war between US and China, available at; last seen on 29/04/2020 [16] Indian economy during the pandemic, available at; last seen on 27/04/2020 [17] Health sector in India during pandemic, available at last seen on 26/04/2020 [18] Pandemic and India, accessible at last seen on 26/04/2020

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