Center drops bill to end attacks on health workers

The Union Department of Health and Family Welfare has rejected a bill that seeks a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to ₹5 lakh for violence against workers of health and destruction of health facilities.

This was revealed in response to a request under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. KV Babu, a Kannur-based ophthalmologist and RTI activist, had filed a plea with the ministry on July 5 asking for the status of the bill, the Health Service Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of violence and property damage).

He had also requested copies of all comments received on this from stakeholders, copies of all communications between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Interior, and briefing notes, if any. . The answer given on July 20 was: “He is informed that it has been decided not to proceed with the bill”. A copy of the case notes and letters could be obtained after paying the required fee, the response added.

“During a debate on an order amending the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897, then-Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said there had been a dramatic drop in the number of incidents of violence against health workers since the legislation was passed. The ordinance had proposed to make incidents of violence against health workers treating patients with COVID-19 a non-bailable offence. This means that a law strong will have an impact,” said Dr Babu.

This law only affected health workers involved in the treatment of COVID-19. “From RTI’s response, however, it appears that the government does not wish to extend the scope of the legislation to all healthcare workers,” he stressed.

The legislation has been proposed to address violence against healthcare workers and damage to clinical facilities. Any case registered under the law shall be investigated by an officer at least holding the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.

It was proposed that the offense be cognizable and not bailable. The convicted person was also required to pay as compensation double the fair market value of the property damaged or loss caused; ₹1 lakh for injuring health service personnel and ₹5 lakh for causing serious injury to health care personnel.

If the convict fails to pay the compensation awarded, said sum will be recovered as arrears of land revenue under the Revenue Recovery Act, 1890.