New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha today passed a legislation that provides five years of punishment in jail for those attacking doctors and healthcare workers fighting the COVID-19 outbreak or during any situation akin to the current pandemic. Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan introduced the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020 in the Upper House on Saturday to replace an ordinance issued by the government in April. The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, to protect healthcare service personnel and property, including their living/working premises against violence during epidemics.
The Bill intends to ensure that during any situation akin to the current pandemic, there is zero-tolerance to any form of violence against healthcare service personnel and damage to property. The healthcare service personnel include public and clinical healthcare service providers such as doctors, nurses, paramedical workers, and community health workers. The penal provisions can be invoked in instances of damage to property including a clinical establishment, any facility identified for quarantine and isolation of patients, mobile medical units, and any other property in which the healthcare service personnel have a direct interest in relation to the epidemic. The commission or abetment of such acts of violence will be punishable with imprisonment for a term of three months to five years, and with a fine of Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 2,00,000.