Press Trust of india

Govt approves ordinance; up to 7 yrs jail for attacking, harassing healthcare personnel

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New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved an ordinance making acts of violence and harassment against healthcare personnel deployed in combating COVID-19 a non-bailable offence, meeting a key demand of health professionals in the wake of recent attacks on them while discharging their duty.

The maximum sentence under the new provision is seven years imprisonment and Rs five lakh fine.

A person can be sentenced to anywhere between three months and five years of jail, besides a fine between Rs 50,000 and two lakhs, for such crimes, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said, asserting that the government has “zero tolerance” for violence and harassment against doctors, nurses, paramedics and other healthcare personnel.

In cases where injuries caused are serious, the punishment will range from six months to seven years, and carry fine between Rs 1-5 lakhs, the minister told reporters.

The ordinance will amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, and the amended law will also be invoked if health care personnel face harassment from their landlords or neighbours over suspicion that they may carry the coronavirus infection due to the nature of their work, he said.

An offence under the amended law will be cognizable and non-bailable, Javadekar said.

Cognizable and non-bailable offence means that police can arrest the accused, and only courts can release them on bail.

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