Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act – 2020: The ongoing situation of COVID – 19 has risen the conflict between citizens and health workers. The medical profession is considered as a Nobel profession in this country. It is the accountability of a medical professional to realize the pain of the patients and relieve them of the unbearable pain.
Many medical practitioners were rendering their services to the nation and lost their lives amid this pandemic. This nation pays humble homage to all these doctors.
A man approaches the hospitals with the hope that the doctors will relieve his unbearable pain. But these doctors may not often touch the height of patients’ expectations due to a variety of reasons like – lack of knowledge and professional skills, poor willingness, improper ethical sensibility, or lack of dedication in service.
It is fact that when people approach hospitals their initial intention is to save the lives of their loved ones. They do not just go to hospitals with their patients to attack the doctors.
A recent incident went viral on social media in which a doctor was beaten up mercilessly after the death of a patient due to alleged medical negligence.
Though the violence can never be justified however we must try to understand that these incidents are not always pre-planned rather they are attempted in a grave emotional outburst.
As we all know – Anger is a senseless state of mind. While any angry man does never care about the law. This phrase alone implies that merely strengthened laws can not solve the problems of our society. Our approach must be more forward and in such order so that it could mitigate the conflicts between the people and medical professionals to accomplish the sole objectives of the legislation.
Need for Epidemic Diseases (amendment) Act – 2020
The various IPC, CrPC sections deal with the crime against any person including Healthcare service personnel. However, increasing attacks and violent incidents resulted in extreme fear and anxiety among the health workers during this pandemic.
To prevent these crimes and violence against the Health workers the government of India deemed it fit to introduce the new bill in the parliament and amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
The Ministry of Health has introduced this bill in the Rajya Sabha and finally, it received the assent of the president on 28th September 2020 And became an act by repealing the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.
The new Act aims to provide protections for healthcare personnel battling epidemic diseases and broadens the scope and powers of the union government to prevent the spread of such diseases.
New features of the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act – 2020
Section 1 (A) was inserted after Section 1 the Principal Act (Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897) in which three terms – Act of Violence, Healthcare Service Personnel, and Property were given a new definition accordingly.
(a). Act of violence includes
- any Harassment, harm, injury, hurt, intimidation, danger to the life of a healthcare service personnel.
- obstruction or hindrance to healthcare service personnel in the discharge of his duties
- loss or damage to any property or documents in the custody of health care personnel.
(b). Healthcare Service Personnel
Any person who is engaged in health care services and carrying out his duties in relation to the epidemic with such authority will be termed as Healthcare Service Personnel. For example –
- Doctor, Nurse, Paramedical worker, and or community health worker
- Any other person appointed to take measures to prevent the outbreak of the disease
- Any other person, given such responsibility by the State.
The Property includes –
- Clinical establishment
- quarantine facility
- A mobile medical unit
- Any other property in which the personnel has a direct interest in relation to the epidemic.
Under Section 5 (2A) of the Main Act, a new Section 2B was inserted which prohibits any person to indulge in any kind of violence against Healthcare workers or causing damage to the property during the epidemic.
Punishment Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act – 2020
If any person infringes the above provision he shall be liable to punishment. Subsection 2 of Section section 6 empowers the act to prescribe the punishment to a person whoever –
- Commits or abets an act of violence against a Healthcare service personnel or Causes damage or loss to any property shall be punished with imprisonment between 3 Months to 5 Years and with a fine between 5 thousand to 2 lakh rupees.
And if an act of violence against a Healthcare Service personnel causes grievous hurt (Read Section 320 of the IPC) The person will be punished with imprisonment between 6 months to 7 years and with a fine between 1 lakh to 5 lakh rupees. – Sec. 6(3) of the Act.
Nature of offence
As mentioned in Section 3A (1) and 3B (2) The offence is cognizable and non-bailable in nature. It can be compounded with the permission of the trial court.
The person who is convicted under this act shall be liable to pay monetary compensation to the victim. If there is a loss or damage to the property the compensation payable to the victim would be two times more than the fair market value of the property.
The fair market value of the product or property shall be determined by the court. Doctors are not allowed to calculate such value of the property lost or damaged.
The act also provides the recovery of the amount under the Revenue Recovery Act, 1890, in case the convicted person fails to pay the compensation.
Investigation and Trial
Section 3 (2) of the act mandates that the registered offence must be investigated by a police officer no below the rank of Inspector.
Further, As per Section 3 (3) of the act, the investigation shall be completed within 30 days from the registration of the FIR.
Trial: Under section 3 (4) It has made mandatory to the court to conduct the inquiry or proceedings expeditiously a possible and conclude the case within a year.
If the case is not concluded within a year then the judge should record the reason and take the necessary measures to solve the case.