Centre dumps draft law to stop attack on health workers

Health Ministry not to ‘pursue’ legislation, says RTI reply

Updated - July 26, 2022 01:36 pm IST

Published - July 24, 2022 07:33 pm IST - Kozhikode

The resident doctors are seen during a protest. Photo used for representation purpose only.

The resident doctors are seen during a protest. Photo used for representation purpose only.

The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry has withdrawn the draft legislation on protection of healthcare workers and healthcare institutions from violence, which proposed a jail term of up to five years and a fine of up to ₹5 lakh for the offenders.

This was revealed in the Ministry’s reply to a query filed under the Right to Information Act by K.V. Babu, a Kannur-based ophthalmologist and RTI activist, on July 5, seeking the status of the Healthcare Service Personnel & Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019.

He sought copies of the comments received on the draft from the stakeholders and exchanges between the Health and Home Ministries and file notings, if any. In its July 20 reply, the Health Ministry said: “It is informed that it was decided not to pursue the draft legislation further.” Copy of file notings and letters could be obtained after payment of the requisite fee, the reply added.

“During a debate on an Ordinance in the Rajya Sabha to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, the then Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had said that there was a dramatic decline in the number of incidents of violence against health workers ever since the Ordinance was brought in. The Ordinance had proposed to make incidents of violence on health workers treating COVID-19 patients a non-bailable offence. That means a strong law will have an impact,” Dr. Babu said.

The Ordinance pertained only to health workers involved in COVID-19 treatment. “From the RTI reply, however, it looks like the government is not keen on expanding the ambit of the Ordinance to all healthcare workers,” he said.

The legislation was proposed to address the violence against healthcare workers and damage to clinical establishments. Any case under the Act will have to be investigated by an officer of rank not lower than Deputy Superintendent of Police.

The offence was proposed to be cognisable and non-bailable.

The convict was liable to pay as compensation twice the fair market value of the damaged property or the loss caused; ₹1 lakh for causing hurt to healthcare service personnel; and ₹5 lakh for causing grievous hurt to healthcare personnel.

If the compensation is unpaid, the said sum shall be recovered as arrears of land revenue under the Revenue Recovery Act, 1890.

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