With the increasing number of instances concerning violent attacks on healthcare workers nationwide, the Central Government has finally promulgated The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 which has come into force from 22.04.2020 with immediate effect.
As per the new Ordinance, any “act of violence” which may include harassment, intimidation, injury or harm towards the healthcare workers or damaging their property shall now be punishable with imprisonment for not less than three months and which may extend upto five years along with fine which shall not be less than Rs.50, 000/- (Rupees Fifty Thousand Only) extending upto Rs. 2, 00,000/- (Rupees Two Lakh Only).
Also, any person causing grievous injury to a health worker as defined under Section 320 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than six months but which may extend upto seven years, along with fine not less than Rs. 1, 00,000/- (Rupees One Lakh Only) extending upto Rs.5,00,000/- (Rupees Five Lakh Only).
“We have seen that our health workers, who are doing the most crucial duty for the country, are being attacked at some places, their property is being damaged and are facing harassment as they are suspected to be carriers of the novel Coronavirus. This is a zero-tolerance area for the government, and we will not let this happen in a civilized society,” said Prakash Javadekar after a cabinet meeting on 22.04.2020, Wednesday.
The Ordinance further stated that the offences mentioned hereinabove shall be cognizable and non bailable in nature and investigations into cases regarding attacks on healthcare workers have to be conducted by a senior inspector and must be completed within 30 days. The proceedings in the matter related to the mentioned offences shall thereby be held promptly. Any damage to the property of healthcare workers shall be met with compensation twice the market value of the damaged property and in case of failing to do so; the amount will then be recovered as an arrear of land revenue under the Revenue Recovery Act, 1890.
State governments have also been directed to take stringent action against offenders who are found preventing families of healthcare professionals or other frontline workers from performing the last rites of people who have died after contracting COVID-19. Healthcare workers in several states have also stressed upon the need to ensure that they are provided with adequate personal protective equipment in hospitals.
COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll over the entire nation claiming 681 lives till date and has infected upto 21,797 people nationwide as per The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). With the State and Central Government coming up with new guidelines and ordinances to curb the outbreak and ensure the safety of healthcare workers, we can hope that India continues to fight back COVID-19 with absolute ferocity.