In Kolkata, the patient’s family members allegedly attacked a doctor in the hospital and because of this; the resident doctors went on strike in support of their colleague. After this incident, there was a need to pass a bill.
A Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property Bill, 2019 was drafted by the Health Ministry. The Bill proposes that anybody causing grievous hurt (under section 320 of IPC) to a doctor or any other healthcare professional would be imprisoned for up to ten years. The proposed bill also mentions that “all offences under this Act are cognizable and non-bailable”, but the offence under section 5(1) conveys minimum sentence of six months. Under section 9 (1)(i) of the bill, the compensation for damaged property has been based on fair market value.
The Ministry introduced the bill in the last session of parliament. The Health Services Personnel and Clinical Establishment (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019 intends to punish patients for unlawfully assaulting medical practitioners for up to10 years.
After the bill was introduced in the winter session, the whole medical fraternity was waiting for the bill to be passed. Doctors have been facing violence due to the increasing issues of medical negligence. However, due to certain objections, the bill was dismissed.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) during inter-ministerial consultations, stated that India has no separate laws for a particular profession such as lawyers or teachers. If the government of India passes this bill, it gives altogether a different status and law for the doctors, thus leading to chaos and partiality towards professions. They further added that every profession in India has some loopholes, and there can be better ways to handle them instead of demanding a new law. It was also considered that, if this bill gets passed, other professions would ask for the same from the government, leading to unnecessary laws and bills. Further, a senior from the MHA added that the IPC(Indian Penal Code) and CrPC (Criminal procedure code) are sufficient to deal with such issues. The bill was rejected by the MHA.
At the 20th convocation ceremony of National Board of Examinations, AshwiniChoubey stated that the government is troubled over rising instances of attacks on doctors on duty.
The bill was made by an eight-member sub-committee comprising of officials and representatives of the Medical Council of India, Indian Medical Association, the all India institute of medical sciences and an experienced person from the Bureau of Police research and development.
The Union Health Ministry, Harsh Vardhan, stated that the bill was still under discussion and was not put on the back burner by the government. Senior Health Ministry stated that they would pursue it. We will resend the bill to the government.
It was also noted that the bill was specifically made for healthcare professionals, including the doctors, medical students, paramedical staff and also the diagnostic service providers and the ambulance drivers.
Although the points put up by MHA seem true, one cannot overlook the demand for comprehensive central legislation to put a check on the increasing violence against doctors and other healthcare professionals.