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Kerala Assembly passes bill to protect hospitals, healthcare workers

The Kerala Healthcare Service Persons and Healthcare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Amendment Bill, 2023, was passed by the Assembly on Monday without further discussion.

The Bill, when it was presented in the House in August, was sent to the subject committee after several members raised apprehension that in protecting the rights of health-care workers, patient rights had not been given much attention and that the law could turn out to be one-sided.

Thus, by general agreement, the clause in the Bill that verbal abuse against a health-care worker can invite simple imprisonment of up to three months or a fine of up to ₹10,000 or both was struck down as it was deemed that the said provision could be misused to suit vested interests.

Apart from this, the Bill which came back from the subject committee, as presented by Health Minister Veena George, seemed to have accepted only minor amendments to terminologies rather than any major changes in the law as such.

George said under Indian Penal Code Section 325, the punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt spoke only about a maximum punishment of imprisonment of up to seven years.

However, the Bill passed by the Assembly ensures that any offender who commits serious physical violence against a health-care worker will be punishable with imprisonment not less than a year, up to a maximum of seven years and a minimum fine not less than ₹1 lakh up to a maximum of ₹5 lakh.

Offenders who attempt to commit violence or persuade another to commit violence against hospitals and health-care staff will be punishable with imprisonment not less than six months to a maximum of five years and fine not less than ₹50,000 to a maximum of ₹2 lakh.

The other amendments made to the mother Act of 2012, that a police official ranked not less than an inspector will investigate cases filed under the Act and that the investigation will be completed within 60 days of the registering of the FIR stand.

The new amended Bill also states that trial procedures will also be completed within a stipulated time frame of one year. The government, with the consent of the High Court, will designate a court as a special court in every district for trying cases under the 2012 Act.

The Bill had initially been passed by the Cabinet as an ordinance amending the mother Act of 2012 and by including stringent penal provisions against the perpetrators of violence on hospitals/doctors in May this year. It was occasioned by the murder of young house surgeon Vandana Das by a patient at the Kottarakara taluk hospital. The Hindu

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