The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 20202 was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Saturday i.e. September 19th, 2020. This bill was passed to protect healthcare personnel that was combatting epideictic diseases. The upper house of the parliament passed this bill by a voice note. The Bill is already in force as an ordinance. The bill has also expanded the scope of powers of the Central Government to prevent the spread of such types of diseases.
Health Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, while passing the bill remarked that the healthcare service personnel have been often stigmatized during the current global pandemic. He further narrated how there have been cases of attacks on their “person, property, and the healthcare facility”. Currently, the bill sought to introduce strict provisions that would act as an effective deterrent in these circumstances. The Bill was supported by a majority of members. However, a few changes were requested. A few of these suggestions are enumerated below:
- Define epidemic/pandemic;
- Delineate statutory duties of a Government during an epidemic;
- Set up a clinical establishment regulatory commission, headed by a High Court Judge, to prevent the private hospitals from overcharging patients during a pandemic;
- Extend protection to Police professionals and all other allied workers such as Anganwadis workers, Sanitation workers, fire servicemen, medicine distributors, etc.;
- Make provision for catering for Mental Health of the frontline workers;
- Include penal provisions against intentional procurement of healthcare equipment at the higher process, overcharging for medical treatment, medicines, injections;
However, the bill was amended without incorporating these amendments. The salient features of this bell are enumerated below
- The commission/abetment of any act of violence against a healthcare service personnel is prohibited by this Bill;
- Any act/abetment that causes damages or loss to property is prohibited during an epidemic by this Bill
- Violation of these provisions shall result in a cognizable and non-bailable offense. It can result in imprisonment between three months-five years. a fine will also be levied between Rs 50,000-3,00,000
- If grievous harm is caused to a healthcare service personnel due to an act of violence, the offense will be punishable with imprisonment between six months-seven years alongside a fine between Rs 1,00,000-5,00,000.
- If the convicted person does not pay such compensations, the compensation will be recovered as an arrear of land revenue under the Revenue Recovery Act, 1890