A bill drafted by the health ministry to check violence against doctors and other healthcare professionals has been put on the backburner. According to officials, the Home Ministry stated there was no need for a separate law in this regard, despite several attacks against doctors prompting widespread protests by doctors earlier this year. Hereâ€™s what you need to know:
1. What is the Health Services Personnel and Clinical Establishments Bill?
The call for a comprehensive central legislation to put a check on violence against healthcare professionals gained momentum against the backdrop of rising instances of such cases and damage to the property of clinical establishments across the country.
The health ministry had intended to introduce the bill during the winter session of Parliament, which ended on December 13. The Health Services Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019, sought to punish people who assault on-duty doctors and other healthcare professionals by imposing a jail term of up to 10 years.
2. Law Ministry vs Home Ministry: What each said about the Bill
According to a senior official, the Law Ministry had approved the draft Bill but the Home Ministry stated during inter-ministerial consultations over it, a separate legislation cannot be established to protect members of a particular profession.
"The home ministry dismissed the need for a separate law to check violence against the fraternity members of a specific profession. It had said there should be no specific law for a particular profession, and the IPC and CrPC are sufficient to deal with it. Over the time, members of other fraternities like lawyers and police may also demand for an exclusive law to safeguard their interests," the official said.
3. What was the punishment proposed by the Bill?
The draft bill proposed imprisonment between three and ten years and imposition of fines anywhere from Rs 2 lakhs to Rs 10 lakhs for â€˜grievously hurtingâ€™ 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 5 lakh, it had proposed.
The draft bill also had 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.
Healthcare professionals include doctors, para-medical staff and also medical students, diagnostic service providers in a health facility and ambulance drivers.
4. Who drafted the Bill?
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.
It was put in public domain for feedback in September.
5. Doctors protest throughout the country
In June, resident doctors across the country held protests and went on a strike against a brutal attack on their colleagues in Kolkata by relatives of a patient who died during treatment.
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.