The Centre has agreed to pass an order that makes assaults on healthcare workers a non-bailable crime with a prison sentence of up to seven years and specific requirements to make the offender pay damages to property.
The decision came at a time when doctors and healthcare staff were facing discrimination and even assaults in the fight against COVID-19 in some parts of the world.
The Union Cabinet has voted to amend the 123-year-old Epidemic Diseases Act to incorporate measures to take action against doctors and health care staff who are assaulted.
The offense is now going to be cognizable and non-bailable. Within 30 days, an inquiry will be conducted. The accused can be sentenced from three months to five years and penalized from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh.
The accused can be sentenced from six months to seven years in prison in the event of serious injury and punishment ranging from Rs one lakh to Rs five lakh. If the harm is caused to healthcare workers’ cars or hospitals, then the accused will receive compensation amounting to twice the market value of the damaged goods.
The example of a Chennai doctor, who succumbed to COVID-19, was refused burial by two cemeteries, and struck by an ambulance carrying his mortal remains was also condemned. Strict action will now be taken against anyone who obstructs when discharging their facilities, the performance of the last rites of medical practitioners, or frontline healthcare staff succumbing to COVID-19.