RS passes bill to punish those attacking healthcare workers

NEW DELHI, Sep 19: The Rajya Sabha on Saturday passed a legislation that provides for upto seven years in jail for those attacking doctors and healthcare workers fighting the Covid-19 outbreak or during any situation akin to the current pandemic.

The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020, was introduced by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan in the upper house on Saturday.

The bill was supported by the members across party lines. However, some suggested adding in its purview hospital sanitary staff, ASHAs and ‘Corona warriors’ in emergency services, such as police and personnel from other departments.

Besides, members also pointed out overcharging by some private hospitals in the name of Covid-19 treatment, turning the crisis into an opportunity for them.

The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020, will replace an ordinance issued in April by the government.

The government had brought the ordinance on 22 April to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, to make incidents of violence on health workers treating Covid-19 patients a non-bailable offence with provisions of a penalty and a jail term of upto seven years.

The bill intends to ensure that during any situation akin to the current pandemic, there is zero tolerance of any form of violence against healthcare personnel and damage to property.

Under the proposed act, the commission or abetment of such violence will be punishable with imprisonment for a term of three months to five years, with a fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 2,00,000.

In case of causing grievous hurt, the imprisonment shall be for a term of six months to seven years, with a fine of Rs 1,00,000 to Rs 5,00,000.

On overcharging by private hospitals, Vardhan said the central government has issued guidelines to states regarding charging by private hospitals, laboratories etc. “We have tried to rationalize these prices,” he said. (PTI)