HPSC HCS exam EPIDEMIC DISEASES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2020
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HPSC HCS exam EPIDEMIC DISEASES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2020

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EPIDEMIC DISEASES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2020

Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020:

  • The Bill amends the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
  • It shall include protections for health care service personnel combating epidemic diseases.

Need for the Bill:

  • Many States have enacted special laws to offer protection to doctors and other medical personnel. However, the penal provisions contained in these laws are not stringent enough to deter mischief mongering. 
  • They generally do not cover harassment at home and workplace and are focused more on physical violence only.
  • Low health literacy in population perpetuated by myths and false beliefs led people to believe that every death result from failure of doctors, avoiding one’s duties etc. Thus, people can resort to harming the health personnel.
  • Lack of adequate security and crowd control measures in most of the hospitals, especially in the government sector.

Key Provisions:

Definition:

  • It defines healthcare service personnel as a person who is at risk of contracting the epidemic disease while carrying out duties related to the epidemic. It includes:
    • any public and clinical healthcare service providers such as doctors, nurses, paramedical workers and community health workers.
    • any other person empowered under the Act to take measures to prevent the outbreak of the disease or spread.
    • any person declared as such by the State Government.

Act of violence:

  • It includes any of the following acts committed against a healthcare service personnel:
    • harassment impacting living or working conditions
    • harm, injury, hurt or danger to life
    • obstruction in discharge of his duties
    • loss or damage to the property or documents of the healthcare service personnel.

Punishment:

  • The violence is punishable with imprisonment between three months and five years and a fine between Rs. 50,000 and two lakh rupees, which can be compounded by the victim with the permission of court.
  • In case of grievous harm, it is punishable with imprisonment between six months and seven years and a fine between one lakh rupees and five lakh rupees.
  • These offences are cognizable and non-bailable.

Compensation:

  • Persons convicted of offences will also be liable to pay a compensation to the healthcare service personnel whom they have hurt.
  • In the case of damage or loss of property, the compensation payable to the victim will be twice the amount of the fair market value of the damaged or lost property, as determined by the Court.

Investigation:

  • Cases registered will be investigated by a police officer not below the rank of Inspector. The investigation must be completed within 30 days from the date of registration of the First Information Report.

Trial:

  • The inquiry or trial should be completed within one year. If it is not concluded within this time period, the Judge must record the reasons for the delay and extend the time period. However, the time period may not be extended for more than six months at a time.

Powers of the Central Government:

  • The act specifies that the Central Government may regulate:
    • the inspection of any ship or vessel leaving or arriving at any port
    • the detention of any person intending to travel from the port, during an outbreak.
  • The Bill expands the powers of the Central Government to regulate the inspection of any bus, rain, goods vehicle, ship, vessel or aircraft leaving or arriving at any land port, port or aerodrome. Further, the government may regulate the detention of any person intending to travel by these means.

Way Forward:

  • Although the Bill acts as deterrent to some extent, it is applicable only during epidemics, hence there is a need to bring a comprehensive law to address the issue of violence on healthcare workers permanently.
  • The Prevention of Violence against doctors, medical professionals and medical institutions Bill, 2018 should be passed to provide able and timely assistance to the victims of medical negligence or mismanagement, establish a District Wise Committee to aid and advise such victims for taking recourse to an appropriate forum for a suitable relief.
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