Last Saturday, when he wrote to Chief Ministers asking them to frame laws for protection of medical professionals, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan attached to it a draft law framed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).
The draft Protection of Medical Service Persons and Medical Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss of Property) Act, 2017 proposes a ten-year jail term and a Rs 5-lakh fine for violence against doctors. The IMA is currently seeking a seven-year jail term for the offence.
The draft law was submitted by the IMA to the Ministry in 2017 — it had demanded a central law for the protection of doctors, and has raised it again in the wake of the NRS Medical College and Hospital incident in Kolkata.
The provisions of the draft law are stringent: it categorizes both mental and physical abuse as violence against doctors, and covers not just hospitals and a radius of 50 metres around them, but also home visits. Such violence, it says, will constitute an offence that is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and fit for trial by a court of the Judicial Magistrate of First Class. Apart from penal provisions, it also provides that the offender in case of any property damage will have to pay twice the price of the damaged property as compensation.
Dr K K Aggarwal, who was president of IMA when the draft Act was submitted, told The Indian Express: “At that time, when we looked at the legal protection available to doctors, we found that 19 states have some provisions, many have promulgated ordinances. When we met the Inter-Ministerial Committee, the Additional Secretary told us that health is a state subject, so only if some states write to the Centre for such an Act, can a central Act be made. Their position was that there are enough provisions in the IPC to tackle this situation, but our position was that in public interest, doctors need a special provision. If one doctor is assaulted, several hundred patients suffer as he goes off duty.”
In his letter to CMs, Dr Harsh Vardhan cited a July 2017 letter sent by the Union Health Ministry to all Chief Secretaries which contains the decision taken by the Inter-Ministerial Committee constituted under the Ministry to review the issues raised by the IMA.
The committee, in its report, recommended that the Health Ministry suggest to all state governments, which do not have a specific legislation to protect doctors and health professionals, to consider one to strictly enforce the provisions of special legislation wherever they exist or enforce the IPC/CrPC provisions with vigour.