Published: 30th August 2019
Central legislation against assault on doctors will be in the Parliament's winter session: Harsh Vardhan
In the wake of widespread protests by doctors against brutal thrashing of a junior doctor in West Bengal, only last month, the Centre had constituted a 10-member inter-ministerial committee
Central legislation seeking punishment for those who attack doctors on duty is almost ready and will be tabled in the Parliament in the upcoming winter session, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan told this newspaper.
"The problem of the attack on doctors is something that cannot be ignored and a central law is required to put a curb to this disturbing trend," said Vardhan. The minister added that a draft bill will soon be released in public domain for feedback before it's taken to the Union Cabinet. "We have already consulted some stakeholders and now the ministry is working to give a final contour to the draft bill," Vardhan added.
In the wake of widespread protests by doctors against brutal thrashing of a junior doctor in West Bengal, only last month, the Centre had constituted a 10-member inter-ministerial committee, with officials from health, home and law ministries to assess the "pros and cons" if a central law to penalise those who assault doctors is made. The committee soon green signalled to form central legislation even though 16 states already have laws to prevent violence against healthcare professional that have hardly led to any convictions.
Those "grievously hurting" doctors and other healthcare professionals in clinical establishments may face imprisonment between three and ten years and could fine between Rs 2 to Rs 10 lakh, provisions in the draft bill says. The draft bill also says 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. Healthcare professionals, doctors and para-medical staff and also medical students, diagnostic service providers in a health facility and ambulance drivers.
Though there is no central data on assault on doctors, a report by the Indian Medical Association suggests that up to 75 % of doctors have faced some kind of violence at work. This violence may comprise telephonic threats, intimidation, verbal abuse, physical but non-injurious assault, physical assault causing simple or grievous injury, murder, vandalism, and arson. Medical professionals who faced violence have been known to develop psychological issues such as depression, insomnia, post-traumatic stress, fear, and anxiety, leading to absenteeism, noted an article authored by some psychiatrists in Indian Journal of Psychiatry in April.