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IMA turns to Modi on violence against doctors

Copyright: niyazz / 123RF Stock PhotoThe Indian Medical Association (IMA) has turned to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for help in advancing legislation punishing violence against the medical fraternity. 

The Health and Services Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage of Property) Bill was proposed by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare earlier this year. The Bill would penalise violence against the medical fraternity with up to ten years of imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh, as well as vandalism of healthcare facilities with up to five years in prison and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) claims that 75 percent of medical practitioners have been the subject of violence, intimidation, harassment and/or abuse on duty.

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan acknowledged the legislation to be “a long-standing demand of the medical fraternity.” The Union Health Ministry intended to advance the Bill during the Winter Session of the Lok Sabha. However, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs rejected the draft legislation on the grounds that “the IPC [Indian Penal Code] and CrPC [Code of Criminal Procedure] are sufficient to deal with it [violence against doctors]” according to one official. A Health Ministry official subsequently said that, because of the Home Ministry’s objections, the law will be “kept…on hold.”

“It is reliably understood that the Home Ministry has scuttled the draft central legislation taking an unacceptable stand that no one profession will get special treatment,” the IMA has said in response. “The Union Health Ministry is on record regarding the need of such a law and an assurance was also given on the floor of Parliament. With the draft legislation in [the] public domain, the medical professionals of the country had expectations that the law was imminent. The IMA hopes that the government does not go back on its word in this regard.”

An appeal has been sent by the medical fraternity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The IMA appeals to the Prime Minister to take a favourable decision in this regard to send a strong message against violence on doctors and hospitals,” the doctors’ group said. “The IMA will have no option but to aggressively fight this injustice.” 

Rejecting the assertion that “a separate law to check violence against the fraternity members of a specific profession” was unnecessary and existing provisions in law are adequate, the IMA said that doctors are “unique and are comparable to no other profession.” They argued that legislation explicitly penalising violence against the medical fraternity similar to the centrally-proposed Bill is in place in 22 states and union territories.

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