Tweaks to doctor safety bill advised
The ministries of home and law have asked the health ministry to revisit some of the provisions in a draft legislation that seeks to check violence against medical professionals, officials said.
The two ministries have cited certain ambiguities and loopholes in the draft.
The health ministry intends to introduce in the ongoing session of Parliament the Health Services Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019.
The legislation seeks to impose a jail term of up to 10 years on those who assault on-duty doctors and other healthcare professionals.
The home ministry, during an inter-ministerial consultation, observed that as a general rule, a non-bailable offence carries a term of imprisonment of three years or more.
The proposed bill mentions that “all offences under this act are cognisable and non-bailable” but the offence under Section 5 (1) carries a minimum sentences of six months.
“The offence under section 5 (1) of the proposed bill should, therefore, be a bailable offence,” the ministry said.
The home ministry further pointed out that the level of the investigating officer has been prescribed as not below the rank of deputy superintendent of police (DSP).
“This needs to be reconsidered as there are not many police officers of the levels of DSP or above in a district,” it suggested.
The law ministry said that prescribing an investigation by such a high-rank officer might be counterproductive and suggested keeping the rank at the level of an inspector.
The law ministry also felt that different durations of imprisonment, ranging from 6 months to 10 years, have been provided and such a situation may create “ambiguity regarding the court of appropriate jurisdiction for conducting the trial….”
“It is thus suggested that a provision may be incorporated to make the offences under the bill/act triable by a designated court/special court,” it said.
The ministry observed that the proposed bill does not have any provision prescribing time limit for completing investigation and filing of chargesheet.
It suggested that provisions for filing the chargesheet in 60 days may be incorporated in the bill.
The ministry proposed that for effective implementation of the statute, a time limit of one year should be prescribed for the conclusion of the trial.
The draft bill moots compensation which could be twice the market value of property damaged and Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh for being assaulted or injured. In case of non-payment of compensation by a convict, the amount may be recovered as arrears of land revenue, sources said.
“The compensation for damaged property has been based on fair market, value which is ambiguous and likely to create confusion and debate,” the Law ministry observed, adding that some procedure for definite /determined compensation may be prescribed.
Alternatively, it may be left to the court to determine the compensation, it said.
The call for a comprehensive central legislation has gained momentum against the backdrop of rising instances of violence against healthcare service professionals and damage to clinical establishments across the country.
Healthcare professionals include doctors, paramedical staff, medical students, diagnostic service providers in a health facility and ambulance drivers.