• Kushal Kumar Jha

Rajya Sabha passes bill to criminalize attacks on healthcare workers amid COVID-19 pandemic

Rajya Sabha on Saturday passed The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill 2020 to criminalize attacks on healthcare workers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation provides for up to 5 years in jail for those who attack healthcare workers/Doctors fighting the COVID-19 outbreak in India.

Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan in Rajya Sabha

The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill 2020 was introduced by Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan in the upper house of the parliament on Saturday to replace the ordinance issued by the Union government in April 2020.

The Union government had issued the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance in April to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act 1987 to protect healthcare workers who were exposed to violence while performing their duties in containing the Coronavirus outbreak in the country.

The bill will ensure that any attacks on the frontline corona warriors won't be tolerated and strict actions will be taken through legal means. The 5-year jail term will ensure that no one dares to assault those who are working selflessly in the last few months to contain the outbreak of the highly contagious virus.

The healthcare service personnel include both Public and Clinical healthcare service providers such as Doctors, Nurses, Paramedical staff, any other worker assigned under the act, or any worker declared by notification in the official gazette to fight against the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The penal provisions can also be invoked in case of damage to the property of healthcare service providers. This includes clinical establishments, quarantine or isolation centers, mobile medical units, or any other property associated with the healthcare personnel.

The bill proposes that the offences will be investigated by a police officer of rank Inspector within 30 days, and the trial in the cases will have to be concluded within a year and can be extended by the courts if needed so.

The provision in the legislation provides that any act of violence against healthcare workers will be punishable with imprisonment for a term of three months to five years, and a fine of ₹50,000 to ₹2,00,000.

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