President Ram Nath Kovind late on Wednesday gave his assent to promulgation of the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 which provides stricter punishment for attacks against health workers amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Union Cabinet had approved the ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, making such offences as non-bailable carrying an imprisonment up to 7 years and a maximum of Rs 5 Lakh fine if anyone is found guilty.
Terming the attacks on those trying to save the country from the Coronavirus pandemic as “unfortunate”, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar at a media briefing after a Cabinet meeting, asserted that “no incident of violence or harassment against health workers will be tolerated”.
As per the ordinance, such crimes will now be cognizable and non-bailable.
An investigation will be carried out in such cases within 30 days and the accused can be sentenced from three months to 5 years and penalised from Rs 50,000 up to Rs 2 Lakh.
In case of grievous injuries, the accused can be sentenced from 6 months to 7 years and fined from Rs 1 Lakh up to Rs 5 Lakh, the minister said.
If any damage is done to the vehicles or clinics of healthcare workers, then a compensation amounting to twice the market value of the damaged property will be taken from the accused.
The tough measures come as several cases of violence against doctors and health workers have emerged from various parts of the country.
Earlier, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) had decided to observe a ‘white alert’ at 9 pm on April 22, wherein, the healthcare workers will light a candle as protest and vigil; and April 23 as a ‘Black Day’, wherein, all doctors in the country will work with black badges.
However, the call was withdrawn after Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday morning urged doctors to not even hold a symbolic protest and assured them of security amid attacks on healthcare workers handling COVID-19 cases across the country.
Soon after the Union Cabinet amended the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1987, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to suggest that it showed his government’s “commitment” to protect the medical fraternity.
The Prime Minister tweeted: “The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 manifests our commitment to protect each and every healthcare worker who is bravely battling COVID-19 on the frontline.”
The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 manifests our commitment to protect each and every healthcare worker who is bravely battling COVID-19 on the frontline.
It will ensure safety of our professionals. There can be no compromise on their safety!
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 22, 2020
PM Modi, who chaired the Cabinet meeting, added, “It will ensure safety of our professionals. There can be no compromise on their safety.”