Health ministry-constituted panel mulls ways for central law on doctors security

PTI Jul 11, 2019

A 10-member committee constituted by the Health Ministry to examine the "pros and cons" of bringing a central law to check incidents of violence against doctors and medical professionals on duty held its first meeting on July 10 and mulled ways to strengthen security at medical establishments across the country.

Representatives from the ministries of Health, Home and the Legal Affairs Department besides medical superintendents of AIIMS and RML and representatives of doctors' associations like IMA and FORDA discussed the need for such a law.

Last month, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) had held a nationwide protest following an assault on doctors at the NRS Medical College in Kolkata and demanded the enactment of a central law to check violence on medical professionals in hospitals.

The committee was constituted on July 5 to examine the "pros and cons of bringing out a central legislation against assault on doctors on duty and clinical establishments", the Health Ministry said. "We heard all the representatives who expressed their views on the need for formulation of such a law to protect doctors. We have also asked all the representatives to submit their inputs which we will discuss in our next meeting scheduled for next week. "The discussions included improving medical infrastructure, strengthening manpower and security personnel at all medical establishments across the country," a senior health ministry official said.

Dr Amarinder Singh Malhi, President of AIIMS RDA, who attended the meeting, stressed on the need for a central security act with provisions for expedition of legal recourse, swift justice, provision of a non-bailable offence and counter penalty provision against investigation officer (IO), if at all investigation is not taken up in time bound manner and if justice is not ensured. "Zero conviction of assailants till date despite innumerable reported incidents and with already existing provisions necessitates a uniform central act," said Dr Malhi.

At present only 19 states have state legislations on violence against doctors. Hence, bringing a central law enables all the states to deal uniformly with all incidents reported from any hospital or clinical establishment. The IMA has welcomed the Centre's move for a committee to discuss issues related to a central act for the security of doctors. "IMA has won the first battle in its struggle against violence. The Union government has constituted an inter-ministerial committee to go into the central legislation against the assault on doctors and hospitals. Congratulations to the entire medical fraternity," the doctors' body had said in statement.

The IMA had launched a four-day nationwide protest last month following the Kolkata incident and wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah demanding enactment of a central law saying it should have a provision for a minimum of seven-year jail sentence to violaters.

Following the incident, junior doctors went on a week-long agitation, disrupting health care services at all state-run hospitals in Kolkata. Doctors at several other hospitals across the country also boycotted work, held marches and raised slogans to express solidarity with their protesting colleagues in Kolkata.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had supported the demand for a central law and had said that such crimes should be made non-bailable. He had also written to all states requesting chief ministers to consider enacting specific legislation for protecting doctors and medical professionals from any form of violence, along with suggesting a model law proposed by the IMA.

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