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  India   All India  23 Apr 2020  Ordinance to protect healthcare workers: Which act of violence is punishable offence?

Ordinance to protect healthcare workers: Which act of violence is punishable offence?

AGE CORRESPONDENT WITH AGENCY INPUTS
Published : Apr 23, 2020, 2:47 pm IST
Updated : Apr 23, 2020, 5:20 pm IST

The President had given his assent for promulgation of the ordinance on Wednesday hours after the Union Cabinet approved it

Medics collect samples for COVID-19 tests at Patel Nagar in New Delhi. PTI photo
 Medics collect samples for COVID-19 tests at Patel Nagar in New Delhi. PTI photo

New Delhi: An ordinance that makes acts of violence against healthcare personnel or damage to property during an epidemic a cognizable and non-bailable offence has come into effect.

The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 amends the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and provides for compensation for injury to healthcare service personnel or for causing damage or loss to property.

 

The President had given his assent for promulgation of the ordinance on Wednesday hours after the Union Cabinet approved it.

The ordinance was issued on Wednesday night and came into force "at once".

According to the ordinance, commission or abetment of such acts of violence is punishable with an imprisonment for a term of three months to five years, and with fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 2,00,000.

In case of causing grievous hurt, imprisonment shall be for a term six months to seven years and with fine of Rs 1,00,000 to Rs 5,00,000.

In addition, the offender will also be liable to pay compensation to the victim and twice the fair market value for damage of property as determined by the court.

 

The ordinance is intended to ensure that during any situation akin to the current pandemic, there is zero tolerance to any form of violence against healthcare service personnel and damage to property, the Health Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday..

"... some incidents of violence have taken place which has demoralized the medical fraternity. It is felt that separate and most stringent provisions for emergent times are needed to act as effective deterrents to any such incidents of violence," the ministry had said.

Violence as defined in the ordinance includes harassment impacting the living or working conditions of such healthcare service personnel and preventing them from discharging duties.

 

It also includes harm, injury, hurt,  intimidation or danger to the life of such healthcare personnel either within the premises of a clinical establishment or otherwise and damage to any property or documents.

The penal provisions can be invoked in instances of damage to property including a clinical establishment, any facility identified for quarantine and isolation of patients, mobile medical units and any other property in which the healthcare service personnel have direct interest in relation to the epidemic.

Offences will be investigated by an officer of the rank of inspector within a period of 30 days, and trial has to be completed in one year, unless extended by the court for reasons to be recorded in writing.

 

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been instances of the most critical service providers being targeted and attacked by miscreants, thereby obstructing them from doing their duties.

"This has led to cases of their stigmatization and ostracization and sometimes worse, acts of unwarranted violence and harassment. Such a situation tends to hamper the medical community from performing their duties to their optimum best and maintaining their morale, which is a critical need in this hour of national health crisis.

"While healthcare service personnel are duty bound to serve without discrimination, the cooperation and sup

Worried over the continuing violent attacks on doctors and other frontline healthcare workers across the country, the Centre approved an ordinance making such incidents cognisable and non-bailable offences, with those found guilty facing up to seven years in prison.

 

The Union Cabinet approved the promulgation of an ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 making such acts of violence cognisable and non-bailable offences, and to provide compensation for injury to healthcare service personnel or for causing damage or loss to property.

After reports of several incidents where nurses and doctors on Covid-19 duty were discriminated against or physically attacked, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) had put a lot of pressure on the government to act to protect medical practitioners.

The President had given his assent for promulgation of the ordinance on Wednesday hours after the Union Cabinet approved it. The ordinance was issued on Wednesday night and came into force "at once".

 

What does the ordinance state and which offence invites what punishment? Read on to know...

Violence as defined in the ordinance includes harassment impacting the living or working conditions of such healthcare service personnel and preventing them from discharging duties.

It also includes harm, injury, hurt,  intimidation or danger to the life of such healthcare personnel either within the premises of a clinical establishment or otherwise and damage to any property or documents.

The penal provisions can be invoked in instances of damage to property including a clinical establishment, any facility identified for quarantine and isolation of patients, mobile medical units and any other property in which the healthcare service personnel have direct interest in relation to the epidemic.

 

Who will investigate the matter?

Offences will be investigated by an officer of the rank of inspector within a period of 30 days, and trial has to be completed in one year, unless extended by the court for reasons to be recorded in writing.

According to the ordinance, commission or abetment of such acts of violence is punishable with an imprisonment for a term of three months to five years, and with fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 2,00,000.

In case of causing grievous hurt, imprisonment shall be for a term six months to seven years and with fine of Rs 1,00,000 to Rs 5,00,000.

In addition, the offender will also be liable to pay compensation to the victim and twice the fair market value for damage of property as determined by the court.

 

After a meeting through video link with Union home minister Amit Shah earlier in the day, the IMA called off its proposed “white alert” and “black day” protests planned for Wednesday and Thursday.

In two successive tweets, Mr Shah said the “safety and dignity of our doctors at their workplace is non-negotiable”.

During his meeting with the doctors, Mr Shah along with Union health minister Harsh Vardhan assured them of full support, saying the Prime Minister was personally monitoring all issues related to doctors. Mr Shah also strongly condemned attacks on doctors. Mr Shah also appreciated the role of doctors, more so in the fight against the coronavirus, and said he was confident that doctors would work dedicatedly in this battle as they have been doing so far.

 

The home minister also assured the IMA that the Centre would leave no stone unturned in ensuring their well- being and security. He strongly condemned the recent attacks on health professionals, and urged the doctors not to do even a symbolic protest as they had proposed, as it is not in national or global interest.

The Union home secretary and health secretary, as well as senior doctors and Niti Aayog representatives were present at the meeting.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meanwhile, said on Wednesday there can be no compromise on the safety of healthcare professionals, and said the ordinance approved by the Cabinet shows the government’s commitment.

 

“There can be no compromise on their safety!” Mr Modi tweeted, adding that the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 “manifested the government’s commitment to protect each and every healthcare worker who is bravely battling Covid-19 on the frontline.” The ordinance will protect the entire healthcare fraternity, including doctors, nurses and Asha workers, an official release said. port from society is a fundamental need for them to perform their duties with confidence," the ministry had said.

Several states have enacted special laws to offer protection to doctors and other medical personnel in the past.

"However, COVID-19 outbreak has posed a unique situation where harassment of the healthcare workforce and others working to contain the spread of the disease has been taking place at all fronts, in various places including even cremation grounds," the ministry had said.

 

Tags: assault on doctors, the epidemic diseases (amendment) ordinance 2020, epidemic diseases act, 1897
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi