NEW DELHI, April 22 - 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 5 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 to 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.
�Our government has zero tolerance against violence and harassment targeting doctors, nurses, paramedics and ASHA workers when they are doing their best to fight the pandemic,� he said.
People responsible for violence will also be liable to pay damages, which will be double the market value of the property vandalised, the Information and Broadcasting Minister said.
�The government is ensuring that our health professionals can work without any tension,� he added.
Healthcare professionals have faced violent attacks in some areas during their drive to test people for suspected infection or quarantine them.
There have also been reports that their landlords or neighbours in some cases opposed their presence claiming they may be carriers of the infection on account of their work. � PTI