Anyone who attacks a doctor at a hospital may be jailed for up to 10 years or fined Rs 10 lakh, according to a draft bill the Health Ministry has prepared to deal with rising cases of assault on doctors while they are at work.
The development comes three days after a mob killed a retired 73-year-old doctor at a tea estate in Assam because he was not present when a temporary worker died at the estate hospital.
The Health Ministry has asked for feedback from the public on how to improve the draft Healthcare Service Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019, which was made public on Monday.
"We want to reduce increasing cases of violence against doctors. We are looking for suggestions on the draft legislation before the bill is finalised. The objections or suggestions may be forwarded within 30 days. The maximum punishment will be 10 years imprisonment with Rs 10 lakh fine," said a Health Ministry official, news agency ANI reported.
Cases of people thrashing doctors on duty are not uncommon across the country, especially at crowded state-run hospitals that see thousands of patients every day. The assaults are usually triggered by the death of a patient or what people perceive as lack of attention from doctors.
Doctors and the associations that represent them say they have been unfairly targeted. They have been asking the government to bring in a law to protect them, instead of reacting to incidents with stop-gap measures like posting more guards at hospitals.
"...It has become necessary to prohibit acts of violence, to provide for punishment by making such acts of violence... non-bailable offence and to provide compensation for injury to healthcare service personnel or for causing damage or loss to the property of clinical establishments," the Health Ministry said in a statement.
Medical associations have condemned the lynching of Assam doctor Dr Deben Dutta, who had a long, illustrious career. His colleagues say he was a soft-spoken, amicable person.