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10-year imprisonment for attacking doctors on duty
Anonna Dutt,  26 July 2019
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Assaulting and “grievously injuring” doctors on duty can result with a 10-year imprisonment or to be fined up to Rs 10 lakh, according to the provisions the draft bill meant to prevent violence against doctors, as told to HT on condition of anonymity.

The draft bill was presented in the second meeting of the 10-member committee constituted by the Union health ministry in the first week of July to inspect the feasibility of getting in a central law to make violence against doctors a criminal offence covered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrCP). The committee consistently decided that such a law was needed, and an eight-member subcommittee was also created to draft the bill.

One of the eight-member drafting subcommittee members, said that the most important aspect of the draft bill is the gradation system, which will consider the type of assault and describes the punishment consequently. For example, the minimum punishment would be six months imprisonment and/or Rs 50,000 fine for a simple injury, and the maximum would be five years imprisonment and/or Rs 5 lakh fine. For a serious injury, in which a doctor has to miss work for 20 days, the punishment would be between two years and 10 years and the fine between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 10 lakh.

The bill will make assault on doctors a cognizable, non-bailable offence, said a second person who is a member of the 10-member government panel. Which means a person can be arrested without a warrant and will need to approach the magistrate or court for a bail. The bill does not address injuries that might lead to death as that is already covered under IPC/CrPC.

Also, the draft bill does not make provisions for an institutional FIR (first information report), which was a request raised by the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA).

Presently, laws to protect doctors from violence exist in 19 states, including in West Bengal, where doctors had gone on a strike in June after an alleged instance of assault. Thousands of doctors from across the country had joined the protest, pressurizing the central government to form the committee. According to FORDA, there have been no convictions under laws to protect doctors. The central bill will substitute the state acts if it comes in force.

Dr Jateen Ukrani, consulting psychiatrist at PsyCare Neuropsychiatry Centre, Delhi, said that strong laws is only one part of the solution and there are already such laws in 19 states, but there have been no convictions. A strong law will be of no use without action is truly taken.

Ukrani, author of a meta-analysis on violence against doctors published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, said that the other part of the solution would be for the government to see the root cause. Also, there is a need for increasing healthcare funding, improving facilities and increasing the number of doctors. This will help the patient to be satisfied and there will be less incidents of violence on doctors.

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