The legislation – a long-standing demand of the medical fraternity in India – would penalise those who abuse and harass doctors and vandalise healthcare facilities with a jail sentence of up to ten years and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh. The Union Health Ministry is soliciting the views of the public on the draft law, the Healthcare Service Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019, for the next thirty days. Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan earlier announced the Bill, acknowledging it to be a long-standing matter of concern for the medical fraternity in India.
The issue of violence against doctors has been heavily publicised in recent days, with strike action called in Assam following the death of a 73-year-old doctor who was beaten to death by workers at a tea estate in the Jorhat district. The incident is currently the subject of a magisterial investigation. Meanwhile, resident doctors went on strike indefinitely last week following an attack on two resident doctors by a patient’s relatives in Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. Earlier this year, doctors in West Bengal went on strike after an assault on a doctor in Kolkata – quickly joined by medicos nationally.
The law in question was finalised last month, drawing on the input of multiple institutions including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences’ Resident Doctors Association; the Bureau of Police Research and Development; the Indian Medical Association (IMA); and the Medical Council of India (MCI). It addresses an issue of mounting concern among the medical fraternity in India, as many as 75 percent of whom face violence in the workplace according to the IMA.