Govt. enacts tough law to protect doctors, healthcare workers

freepressjournal_2020-04_f50e17e6-34fe-49bc-b169-f32242848e01_DocsNEW DELHI :Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on Wednesday (April 22) said that Union Cabinet meeting, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved an ordinance to end violence against doctors and health workers with an amendment to Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
“In the case of grievous injuries, the accused can be sentenced from 6 months to 7 years. They can be penalised from Rs 1 Lakh to Rs 5 Lakh,” said Prakash Javadekar, adding “Such crime will now be cognizable offence and non-bailable.
The investigation will be done within 30 days. Accused can be sentenced for 3 months to 5 years and slapped with a fine from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh.” According to Mr Javadekar, the ordinance has been brought as “Health workers who are trying to save the country from this epidemic are unfortunately facing attacks,” adding “No incident of violence or harassment, against them will be tolerated. An ordinance has been brought in, it’ll be implemented after President’s sanction.”
He also said that if the vehicles of health workers are attacked or their clinic is damaged, they will be compensated double the amount of the loss as per the market value. The Ordinance has been implemented across the country, he added.
According to the minister, the government has also provisioned insurance of Rs 50 lakh for these health workers involved in containing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
Later, according to ANI, a spokesperson said that the Home Ministry has issued orders to states against violence and urged states to ensure adequate security to healthcare professionals, medical staff and frontline workers to prevent violence against them.
“Strict action to be taken against those who obstruct the performance of last rites of Covid Warriors succumbing to the disease,” said the spokesperson. The MHA had issued advisories to all states and UTs on March 24, April 4 and April 11 requesting them to ensure adequate protection to healthcare professionals, medical staff and frontline workers by augmenting their safety and security cover.
In spite of the said communications, some incidents of violence have been reported from different parts of the country against healthcare professionals/frontline workers.
The Supreme Court, in its direction on April 8 has observed that the Centre, respective states and UTs and respective police authorities should provide necessary police security to doctors and medical staff in hospitals and places where patients who have been diagnosed COVID-19 or patients suspected of COVID-19 or those quarantined are housed.
Further, the apex court directed to provide necessary police security to doctors and other medical staff who visit places to conduct screening of people to find out symptoms of the disease.

Under provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, MHA has urged upon all states and UTs and district authorities to invoke the provisions of the Act, or any other law in force, to take strict penal action against the offenders.
MHA has further requested the state and UTs to appoint Nodal Officers at State/UT level and at District level, who would be available 24×7 to redress any safety issue on the functioning of medical professionals.
They should also take immediate and strict action in case any incident of violence takes place, it was requested. Asked whether the new changes in the law will be applicable even after the threat of COVID-19 is over, Javadekar told reporters that the ordinance has been approved to amend the Epidemic Act. “But it is a good beginning,” he said, without elaborating.

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