New Delhi: Citing certain ambiguities and loopholes, the ministries of home affairs and law and justice have asked the Health Ministry to revisit some of the provisions in a draft legislation that seeks to check violence against medical professionals, officials said.
The Health Ministry intends to introduce in the ongoing session of Parliament the Health Services Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019 that seeks to punish people who assault on-duty doctors and other healthcare professionals by imposing a jail term of up to 10 years.
The ministry, during an inter-ministerial consultation, observed that while as a general rule, a non-bailable offence carries a term of imprisonment of three years or more, the proposed bill mentions that "all offences under this act are cognizable and non-bailable" but the offence under section 5(1) carries minimum sentences of six months.
"The offence under section 5(1) of the proposed bill should, therefore, be a bailable offence," the ministry said.
In the draft law, the clause 5 which deals with the offences and penalties states that whoever commits violence or abets or incites commission of violence against any healthcare service personnel or abets or incites or causes damage or loss to any property of a clinical establishment, shall, upon conviction, be punished with imprisonment for a term not be less than six months but which may extend to five years.
It also mentions a fine which will not be less than Rs 50,000 and may extend to Rs 5 lakh.
The Home Ministry further pointed out that the level of investigating officer for the cases under the proposed bill has been prescribed as not below the rank of deputy superintendent of police (DSP).
"This needs to be reconsidered as there are not many police officers of the levels of DSP or above in a district," it suggested.
The Law Ministry in its observations suggested that as per section (5) of the draft bill, different quantum of imprisonments ranging from 6 months to 10 years have been provided and such situation may create "ambiguity regarding the court of appropriate jurisdiction for conducting trial of various offences as prescribed in section 5 of the draft bill".
"It is thus suggested that a provision may be incorporated to make the offences under the bill/act triable by a designated court/special court," it said.
The Law Ministry observed that the proposed bill does not have any provision prescribing time limit for completing investigation and filing of chargesheet, and suggested that that suitable provisions for time-bound filing of chargesheet in 60 days may be incorporated in the bill.
"In such situation even after the resignation of case there would be delays in filing of chargesheet which may frustrate the very purpose of the act," it said.
In proposed section 9(1) (i), the compensation for damaged property has been based on fair market value which is ambiguous and likely to create confusion and debate, it said.
The ministry proposed that some procedure for definite/determined compensation may be prescribed. In alternate, it may be left to the court to determine the compensation, it said.