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The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to bring a Central law to protect medical professionals from violence, after a draft Bill in this regard was put on the backburner with the Home Ministry, dismissing the need for a separate legislation in this regard.
The call for a comprehensive central legislation to put a check on violence against health-care professionals gained momentum against the backdrop of rising instances of such cases and damage to the property of clinical establishments across the country.
The Bill drafted by the Health Ministry to check assault against doctors and other health-care professionals was to be introduced during the recently concluded winter session of Parliament but the Home Ministry rejected it.
The Health Services Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019, sought to punish people who assault on-duty doctors and other health-care professionals by imposing a jail term of up to 10 years.
“It is reliably understood that the Home Ministry has scuttled the draft central legislation taking an unacceptable stand that no one profession will get special treatment. The Union Health Ministry is on record regarding the need of such a law and an assurance was also given in the floor of the Parliament. With the draft legislation in public domain, the medical professionals of the country had expectations that the law was imminent. The IMA hopes that the government does not go back on its word in this regard,” the IMA said.
Stating that 22 States and Union Territories already have legislations to check violence against doctors and in hospitals, the doctors body asserted that the medical profession and healthcare are “unique and are comparable to no other profession”.
Any violence against doctors is indirect violence on patients and patient care and safety will be the first casualty, the IMA said, while demanding that the Home Ministry reconsiders and revises its stand on the issue.
“It is not that IMA or the medical profession are clueless and helpless. As a matter of fact, the IMA is ready with advanced state of preparations with a nationwide software and data of individuals perpetrating violence on doctors and hospitals.
Blacklisting individuals and declaring the offenders as persona non grata on a nationwide scale with appropriate consequences are well within the means of the profession. The IMA has so far restrained the medical profession from retaliation. If the constitutional means fail to address the grievance the profession will be free to launch its own defence at all costs, it said.
“The IMA appeals to the Prime Minister to take a favourable decision in this regard to send a strong message against violence on doctors and hospitals. The IMA will have no option but to aggressively fight this injustice,” the doctors’ body said.
The Law Ministry had approved the draft Bill, but the Home Ministry, during inter-ministerial consultations over it, stated that there cannot be a separate legislation to protect members of a particular profession, a senior Health Ministry official had said.
“The Home Ministry dismissed the need for a separate law to check violence against the fraternity members of a specific profession. It had said there should be no specific law for a particular profession, and the IPC and CrPC are sufficient to deal with it. Over the time, members of other fraternity such as lawyers and police may also demand for an exclusive law to safeguard their interests,” the official said.