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Centre asks States to register FIRs against those involved in assault on doctors

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The Centre on Saturday asked state governments to register cases and invoke the stringent Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act, 2020 against those who indulge in assault on doctors and healthcare professionals.

Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla’s letter to States and Union Territories came following several incidents of attack on doctors and healthcare professionals in different parts of the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You will agree that any incident of threat or assault on doctors or healthcare professionals may dampen their morale and create a sense of insecurity amongst them. This may adversely affect the healthcare response system,” Bhalla wrote.

The home secretary said in the present circumstances, it has become imperative that strict action be taken against those who assault healthcare professionals.

“Institutional FIRs should be registered against assaulters and such cases should be fast-tracked. You may also like to invoke provisions of the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act, 2020, where applicable,” he said.

According to this law, anyone involved in the assault on doctors and healthcare professionals are liable to be punished with imprisonment up to five years, and a fine up to Rs two lakh.

This offence may be compounded by the victim with the permission of the court.

Further, if an act of violence against a healthcare service personnel causes grievous harm, the person committing the offence will be punishable with imprisonment up to seven years and a fine up to Rs five lakh.

These offences will be cognisable and non-bailable.

“I would also like to reiterate that a close watch be kept on any objectionable content in social media which may exacerbate such situations. Concerted efforts should be made through posters in hospitals, social media, etc. to emphasise the valuable contribution being made by doctors and other healthcare personnel in the fight against COVID-19,” Bhalla said.

The home secretary said he has written the letter due to the security concerns relating to healthcare establishments and professionals.

Bhalla also highlighted the central government’s earlier advisories sent in this regard on April 27, 2021 and June 9, 2021.

He said that in the earlier advisories, various remedial measures were suggested to check recurrence of such incidents, including adequate security at healthcare facilities, especially at COVID-19 designated hospitals along with controlled and restricted access to the premises.

The other suggestions include facilitation centers at the entry point to provide information as well as sharing of authenticated information regarding medical resources with public through website, helpline, etc., deployment of quick response police teams at vulnerable locations with effective communication and security gadgets and effective local level medical intervention along with well equipped centralized control room for monitoring and quick response, etc.

“Further, I would request that States and Union Territories may take these measures on priority and proactively engage with members of medical fraternity to assuage their concerns,” he said.

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