Govt to bring Bill proposing 10-year jail term for those assaulting doctors

The Union Health Ministry will push for a key legislation, that seeks to punish people who assault on-duty doctors and other healthcare professionals by imposing a jail term of up to 10 years, in the upcoming winter session of Parliament, officials said.

The Health Ministry has asked all other ministries involved in the inter-ministerial consultations over The Health Services Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019 to send their comments at the earliest so that the draft law can be finalised and placed before the Cabinet next week.

The draft legislation has proposed imprisonment between three and ten years and imposition of fines between Rs 2 to Rs 10 lakh for those "grievously hurting" doctors and other healthcare professionals in clinical establishments.

Those commissioning violence or causing damage to the property of a healthcare facility can be imprisoned for six months to five years and fined between Rs 50,000 and Rs five lakh.

The draft bill also provisions for compensation which could be twice the market value of a property damaged and Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh for being assaulted or hurt, sources said.

In case of non-payment of compensation by a convict, the amount may be recovered as arrears of land revenue under the Revenue Recovery Act, 1890, the sources said.

"We will be introducing the bill which seeks to prohibit violence against doctors and other healthcare service personnel and damage to property of clinical establishments in the upcoming winter session," said a senior health ministry official, underling the urgency of bringing in such a legislation in the wake of non-stop attacks on medical professionals in healthcare settings.

The winter session of Parliament is scheduled to begin on November 18.

A long-standing demand of the medical fraternity, the draft legislation was in September put in the public domain for feedback.

The Health Ministry had entrusted an eight-member sub-committee, comprising its officials and representatives from the Medical Council of India, Indian Medical Association, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences' Resident Doctors Association and an experienced person from the Bureau of Police Research and Development, with the task of drafting the bill.

The call for a comprehensive central legislation has gained momentum in the backdrop of rising instances of violence against healthcare service professionals and damage to the property of clinical establishments across the country.

Healthcare professionals include doctors and para-medical staff and also medical students, diagnostic service providers in a health facility and ambulance drivers.

According to the draft bill, violence means an act which causes any kind of hurt, intimidation, obstruction or endangers the life of any healthcare service personnel in the discharge of duty within the premises of a healthcare facility. Violence also includes damage or loss to property or documents in a clinical establishment.

In June, resident doctors across the country held protests and went on a strike against a brutal attack on their colleagues by relatives of a patient who died during treatment in West Bengal.

It was at that time that the demand for a comprehensive central legislation to check violence against doctors and other medical professionals at hospitals gained currency.

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