NEW DELHI: A draft central legislation, seeking to penalise those assaulting doctors and other healthcare professionals with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine of Rs 2-10 lakh, has been stalled by the Ministry of Home Affairs, this newspaper has learnt.
The proposed Bill, prepared at the behest of Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, was set to go the Union Cabinet soon but the MHA has rejected it saying that no central legislation can be brought to protect the practitioners of one specific profession.
The Bill had been prepared in the wake of growing number of attacks on doctors in hospitals and the immediate trigger for the drafting the legislation was brutal assault on junior doctors in West Bengal in June this year, which led to nationwide protests by medical professionals.
“The Union Law Ministry had already given a go-ahead to the draft Bill. But now the MHA has red-signalled it and we will be forced to junk it,” said a senior official in the Health Ministry.
Sources in the Ministry also said that Vardhan was very keen on getting the Bill through and it was due to his intervention that it had got drafted within two months after holding inter-ministerial consultations and taking representations from doctors’ bodies.
“It was put out in the public domain for feedback only after we received the Law Ministry’s approval. Hence, even we are surprised at the strong objections by the MHA,” another official said.
Apart from proposing strict legal provisions against the grievous attack on doctors, the draft Bill had also said that those resorting to violence or causing damage to the property of a healthcare facility can be imprisoned for six months to five years and fined between Rs 50,000 and Rs 5 lakh. Healthcare professionals would have included doctors and para-medical staff, as well as medical students, diagnostic service providers in a health facility and ambulance drivers.
The Indian Medical Association, the largest organisation of private doctors in the country, expressed extreme displeasure at the move warning that a fresh stir would be launched.
“If, after so much persuasion from our side, this is the fate that the draft legislation is going to meet, we will not sit quiet,” IMA president Santanu Sen who is also a Rajya Sabha MP, said.