New Delhi: The Kerala government on Wednesday (May 17) approved an ordinance that ensures stricter punishment against those who attack medical professionals. The move came one week after Dr Vandana Das was murdered by a patient at Kottarakkara taluk hospital.
The ordinance amends the Kerala Healthcare Service Persons and Healthcare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act, 2012.
A person found guilty of attacking a health worker and causing grievous bodily harm can face up to seven years in jail and a Rs 5 lakh fine. The minimum punishment for such a person will be one years’ imprisonment and a Rs 1 lakh fine, The New Indian Express reported.
Verbally abusing health workers has also been made a punishable offence.
“As per the ordinance, cases registered under the amended Act would be investigated by an officer of the rank of inspector, and the investigation would be completed within 60 days. A court in every district would be assigned as a fast-track court for the trial of such cases,” The Indian Express reported.
“The government, with the permission of the Kerala High Court, will designate one court in each district to hear hospital attack cases. If needed, a special prosecutor will be appointed for each district,” health minister Veena George said.
Doctors’ organisations have welcomed this change, but said some of their key suggestions had been left out. “Attacks against doctors outside hospitals and on social media should also be included in the law,” said Indian Medical Association state president Dr Sulphi N., according to The New Indian Express.