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New Delhi, April 22, 2020
The Union Cabinet today approved the promulgation of an ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, making acts of violence against doctors and other healthcare service personnel cognizable and non-bailable offences.
The amendments will provide for imprisonment of up to seven years for such offences and hefty fines.
The ordinance would help protect heathcare service personnel and their official and residential premises against violence, official sources said.
The Cabinet decision came at a time when there has been a spate of attacks on healthcare personnel who were on COVID-19 around the country and hours after Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a video conference with representatives of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) during which he assured them that the Government would take steps to ensure their safety.
He also urged them to withdraw their planned symbolic protest scheduled for later this month against such incidents.
"This actually helps protect the entire health fraternity including doctors, nurses, paramedics up to ASHA workers," Union Information & Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said while briefing journalists about the Cabinet meeting.
He said the amendment was necessitated by the instances of violence against health workers around the country.
He said the amendments would ensure that the investigations in all such cases are completed in a time-bound manner within a month and that the final decisions in all such matters are made within a year.
Javadekar said the Government had a zero-tolerance in such matters and would not allow such acts of violence. He said that, apart from violence, there had also been cases of harassment of medical professionals and para-medical personnel involved in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
He said the amendments would provide for imprisonment of three months to five years and fines ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh in such cases. In severe cases of grievous injuries, the amendments provide for imprisonment from 6 months to seven years and fines ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, he said.