Register FIR under Epidemic Diseases Act, 2020: Center calls for strict action against those who assault doctors
New Delhi: Calling for stricter action against those who assault healthcare professionals, Centre has directed the State Governments and Union Territories (UTs) to register an FIR by invoking the stringent Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act, 2020.
This comes following several incidents of threat and attack on doctors and healthcare professionals in different parts of the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A few days ago the country witnessed a nationwide protest by more than 3.5 lakh doctors over rising cases of violence against doctors.
The Home Ministry has now asked the Chief Secretaries to deal with violence against doctors with serious concerns and strictly monitor such cases.
Holding that attack on doctors and medical staff could lower their morale and adversely affect the healthcare response system, the Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, in a letter to States and Union Territories said, "It has become imperative that strict action be taken against those who assault healthcare professionals. Institutional FIRs should be registered against assaulters and such cases should be fast-tracked. You may also like to invoke provisions of the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act, 2020, where applicable."
According to this law, anyone involved in the assault on doctors and healthcare professionals are liable to be punished with imprisonment up to five years, and a fine up to Rs two lakh.
This offence may be compounded by the victim with the permission of the court. Further, if an act of violence against a healthcare service personnel causes grievous harm, the person committing the offence will be punishable with imprisonment up to seven years and a fine up to Rs 5 lakh.
These offences will be cognisable and non-bailable.
Bhalla further asked to keep a close watch on any objectionable content in social media which may exacerbate such situations.
"Concerted efforts should be made through posters in hospitals, social media, etc. to emphasise the valuable contribution being made by doctors and other healthcare personnel in the fight against COVID-19," he instructed, while asking the States and UTs to take measures to secure healthcare professionals on priority and proactively engage with members of the medical fraternity to assuage their concerns.
A similar advisories had gone to the States/UTs earlier on April 27 and June 9, suggesting various remedial measures to check recurrence of such incidents against healthcare professionals, ensuring adequate security at healthcare facilities including Covid-19 designated hospitals.
For the hospitals, the suggestions included controlled and restricted access to the premises; facilitation centers at the entry point to provide information as well as sharing of authenticated information regarding medical resources with the public through website, helpline, etc; deployment of quick response police teams at vulnerable locations with effective communication/ security gadgets; effective local-level medical intervention along with well-equipped centralized control room for monitoring and quick response, etc.
Meanwhile, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has lauded the efforts of Home Ministry for issuing directions to all Chief Secretaries to ensure that cases of violence against doctors are dealt with serious concerns, and also considering social media abuse as assault.