No separate law to prohibit violence against doctors, healthcare professionals: Centre

Delhi, India: The Rajya Sabha was informed on Tuesday that the Central government has decided not to enact separate legislation to prohibit violence against doctors and other healthcare professionals.

Union Health Minister Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya stated in a written response that a draft of the Healthcare Services Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019, had been prepared and had also been made available for public comment.

“Thereafter it was decided not to enact a separate Legislation for prohibiting violence against doctors and other health care professionals,” he responded to a question regarding the reasons behind the Bill’s withdrawal, which was meant to safeguard healthcare institutions and professionals.

According to Mandaviya, the issue was further discussed with relevant government ministries and departments as well as all stakeholders, and on April 22, 2020, an ordinance known as the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, was issued.

However, on September 28, 2020, the government passed the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act, 2020, which made violence against healthcare workers cognizable and non-bailable offenses in any situation.

In an interview with TNIE, Dr. Rohan Krishnan, the National Chairman of the FAIMA Doctors Association, stated that the union health ministry has not taken seriously their demand for a separate law to provide safety and security to healthcare workers and doctors despite numerous instances of violence against medical professionals in government hospitals over the past few months.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, the government needed us and issued regulations. Also, we felt secure and safe. But the government is displaying its true colors now that Covid-19 is decreasing and normalcy has been restored. “It’s embarrassing,” he said.

He went on to say, “The government is not living up to its promise to bring a separate law to prohibit violence against doctors and healthcare professionals.”

“On the one hand, it has failed to provide the doctors and healthcare professionals with mental and physical safety and security; On the other hand, the government is denying any possibility of providing a separate law in the future rather than verbally communicating with us about this matter. This is an extremely serious matter. Dr. Krishnan stated, “We will raise this issue at every level.”

Under the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act, committing or assisting in acts of violence or causing property damage or loss is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 2,000,000.

For grievous bodily harm, a penalty of six to seven years in prison and a fine of one to five million rupees may be imposed.

In addition, the offender must compensate the victim and compensate property damage twice the fair market value.

According to the minister, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) require state and union territory governments to take appropriate measures to safeguard healthcare professionals and institutions because law and order is a state subject.

The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Bharati Pravin Pawar, responded to a subsequent inquiry regarding the number of security guards hired or outsourced by government hospitals nationwide by stating that because public health and hospitals are subjects of the state, no such data is centrally maintained.

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