In the backdrop of recent attacks and acts of violence against medical practitioners and a growing demand for protection in this regard, the Central Government is considering steps to ensure protection is granted to healthcare professionals and clinical establishments, by making such acts punishable offences under law. After numerous meetings with doctors and other stakeholders, the Department of Health and Family Welfare (Medical Services Division), of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, vide notification dated September 2, 2019, proposed a draft legislation titled ‘The Healthcare Service Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage To Property) Bill, 2019’ (the “Bill”).
The Bill aims to address the issue of violence causing injury / danger to the lives of Healthcare Service Personnel (“HSP”) during the discharge of their duties within the premises of the clinical establishment (“CE”) or otherwise, and damage and loss to the property of CEs. Further, the Bill also considers an act of obstructing /causing hindrance to an HSP in discharge of their duties within the premises of the CE or otherwise, as an act of ‘violence’. The Bill is currently open to public comments for a period of thirty days, ending on October 2, 2019.
The Bill, unlike the recently promulgated National Medical Commission Act, 2019 (“NMC Act”), which is aimed at regulating the practice of medicine (see our related blog on the NMC Act), includes provisions regarding: (i) violence against healthcare professionals; and (ii) damage to the property of CEs across the country.
Understanding the Bill
Section 3 (b) of the Bill defines ‘Healthcare Service Personnel’ in relation to a CE as: “(i) A registered medical practitioner, possessing a recognised medical qualification as defined in clause (h) of Section 2 of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, and enrolled in a State Medical Register as defined in clause (k) of that section; (ii) a medical practitioner registered for practicing in any other system of medicine which is recognised under any law for the time being in force; (iii) a registered dentist, registered dental hygienist and registered dental mechanic as defined in clause (I) of Section 2 of the Dentist’s Act, 1948; (iv) a registered nurse, midwife, auxiliary nurse-midwife and health visitor who is registered as such under section 15A of the Indian Nursing Council Act, 1947; (v) a medical student who is undergoing education or training in any system of medicine recognised by any law for the time being in force; (vi) a nursing student who is undergoing education or training in nursing profession; (vii) para-medical workers, para-medical student and diagnostic services provider; and (viii) ambulance driver and helper.”
Section 3 (a) of the Bill defines ‘Clinical Establishment’ to mean: “(i) a hospital, maternity home, nursing home, dispensary, clinic, sanatorium or an institution by whatever name called, that offers services, facilities requiring diagnosis, treatment or care for illness, injury, deformity, abnormality or pregnancy in any recognised system of medicine established and administered or maintained by any person or body of persons, whether incorporated or not; or (ii) a place established as an independent entity or part of an establishment referred to in sub-clause (i), in connection with the diagnosis or treatment of diseases where pathological, bacteriological, genetic, radiological, chemical, biological investigations or other diagnostic or investigative services with the aid of laboratory or other medical equipment, are usually carried on, established and administered or maintained by any person or body of persons, whether incorporated or not; and shall include a clinical establishment owned, controlled or managed by: (A) the Government or a department of the Government; or a Public Sector Undertaking or Autonomous Body of the Government; (B) a trust, whether public or private; (C) a corporation (including a society) registered under a Central, or Provincial or State Act, whether or not owned by the Government; (D) a local authority; and (E) a single doctor.”
Penalties & Other Provisions
Per the Bill, if any person who commits violence or abets / incites violence against any HSP, or abets / incites / causes damage / loss to any property of a CE, shall, upon conviction, be punished with imprisonment for a period of six months to five years, in addition to the liability for payment of a monetary penalty in the range of INR 50,000 (Indian Rupees Fifty Thousand) to INR 5,00,000 (Indian Rupees Five Lacs). Further, in case of ‘grievous hurt’[i] to any HSP, the person causing the same, shall, upon conviction be punished with imprisonment for a period of three to ten years, in addition to the liability for payment of monetary penalty in the range of INR 2,00,000 (Indian Rupees Two Lacs) to INR 10,00,000 (Indian Rupees Ten Lacs).
In addition to the punishments as mentioned above, a person, upon conviction for violation of the provision of the Bill shall be liable to pay compensation: (i) an amount, twice the amount of fair market value of the damaged property / loss caused, as may be determined by the court; (ii) INR 1,00,000 (Indian Rupees One Lac) for causing hurt to an HSP and INR 5,00,000 (Indian Rupees Five Lac) for causing grievous hurt to an HSP. Further, if the convicted person does not pay the compensation granted, as explained above in this paragraph, the said sum shall be recovered as an arrear of land revenue under the Revenue Recovery Act, 1890.
In terms of Section 7 of the punishment for offence committed under this Bill, shall deemed to be cognizable and non-bailable. Further, per Section 6 of the Bill, once the person-in –charge of the CE gains a written request from the aggrieved HSP, then he / she shall be obligated to inform the officer-in-charge of concerned police station of commission of and offence under this Bill.
[i] The following types of hurts are categorised as grievous hurt under Section 320 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860: “(first) Emasculation; (Secondly) Permanent privation of the sight of either eye; (Thirdly) Permanent privation of the hearing of either ear; (Fourthly) Privation of any member or joint; (Fifthly) Destruction or permanent impairing of the powers of any member or joint; (Sixthly) Permanent disfiguration of the head or face; (Seventhly) Fracture or dislocation of a bone or tooth; (Eighthly) Any hurt which endangers life or which causes the sufferer to be during the space of twenty days in severe bodily pain, or unable to follow his ordinary pursuits.”