Upto 5 years jail for attacking doctors: Rajya Sabha passes Epidemic Diseases Amendment Bill
New Delhi: The upper house of the parliament has passed The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020 — thus giving its shape to legislation that provides for up to five years in jail for those attacking doctors and healthcare workers fighting the COVID-19 outbreak or during any situation akin to the current pandemic.
While introducing the bill, the Union Health Minister while informing the Rajya Sabha about the growing attacks of violence on healthcare professionals, also highlighted the current situation of the Coronavirus pandemic where not only were doctors and healthcare workers subjected to social stigma but also stones were thrown on them when they went out for district surveillance
It was at this time when the Union Cabinet had promulgated The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, to protect healthcare service personnel and property, including their living/working premises against violence during epidemics.
The Bill intends 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 healthcare service personnel include public and clinical healthcare service providers such as doctors, nurses, paramedical workers and community health workers; any other persons empowered under the act to take measures to prevent the outbreak of the disease or spread thereof; and any persons declared as such by the state government, by notification in the official gazette.
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 a 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, the Bill proposes.
As per the its provisions, the commission or abetment of such acts of violence will be punishable with an imprisonment for a term of three months to five years, and with a fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 2,00,000.
Besides this Centre also gave a peek into a new legislation that it is working on.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan informed the House that the government is working on a National Public Health Act for the past few years and it will be brought to the House.
The legislation is tipped to address the deficiencies of the NDMA Act and Epidemic Diseases Amendment Bill. "All issues not included under the Epidemic Act or National Disaster Management Act will be included in the Public Health Act," he said.