Medical practitioners in the state will get legal protection against physical assaults by aggrieved relatives of their patients.
The cabinet on Wednesday passed a resolution to promulgate an ordinance to punish those who assault doctors.
The ordinance provides for a three-year jail term and a fine of Rs 50,000 for assaulters. It also provides for recovery from the assaulters the compensation to be paid for the damage they cause.
The offence will be non-bailable and cognisable.
The ordinance will benefit some two lakh state doctors, who had threatened to observe a “no-practice day” on Tuesday in protest against a spate of violent attacks but called off the agitation after Chief Minister Ashok Chavan assured them of an ordinance.
The cabinet also ensured affected patients and their relatives will get justice in case of medical negligence.
It plans to set up an authority to assist victims and advise them on legal action against errant doctors.
“The Chief Minister delivered on his assurance within two days of promising us protection,” said Dr Tatyasaheb Lahane, a senior leader of the doctors’ action committee. “The authority for aggrieved patients is also a good move.”
Doctors were also glad a medical expert would be on the grievance committee.
“It is a good decision. So far the consumer court has been trying cases without any medical representative,” said Dr Jayesh Lele, Indian Medical Association secretary. “Only a doctor can determine medical negligence.”
Today, the Maharashtra Medical Council does hear complaints of negligence, but the quasi-judicial body is overburdened.
Others also praised the idea of the new forum.
“I don’t believe people should take the law in their hand and the grievance cell should help sort out patients’ problems,” said Shyama Kulkarni, Action for good Governance and Networking in India coordinator for Bandra.
City doctors had been demanding a law to protect them since 2005.
Doctors’ organisations were pleased their long-standing demand for making attacks on doctors and hospitals a non-bailable offence was finally being met.
“Now people will think twice before attacking doctors unnecessarily,” said Dr Lalit Kapoor, Association of Medical Consultants head.