The state legislative Assembly on Friday passed a Bill to protect doctors from attacks by distressed patients and their relatives and hospitals from vandalism.
Minister of State for Law and Judiciary, Bhaskar Jadhav, said the Bill will also safeguard patients’ rights in view of unethical medical practices. “We will implement the Act effectively to ensure justice to all aggrieved parties,” Jadhav said in the Assembly on Friday.
The government had tabled the bill in the first week of the ongoing budget session. The Bill will be taken up in the Council next week. The Bill makes attacks on doctors a non-bailable offence. It provides for a three-year jail term and a fine up to Rs 50,000 for offenders. The guilty will have to pay twice the cost of damages they cause to hospital property.
The state will also form an experts’ forum or constitute an authority to hear complaints of medical negligence. The forum will guide patients or their relatives to agencies authorised to punish errant doctors.
There have been at least eight cases of attacks on doctors in the state. In the most recent cases, mobs manhandled doctors and vandalised property at JJ Hospital, Byculla, after the death of two patients on January 8 and February 24.
Doctors have been demanding a law to protect them from attacks since 2005. Similar laws are in place in Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pardesh and Delhi among other states.
On January 24, 2009, doctors started observing ‘no practice’ day to pressurise the state to pass the law. This was after some men allegedly sent by a patient’s husband blackened the face of an Ahmednagar-based opthalmologist and paraded him around the city in December 2008.
“It is great the bill has been passed, but it should be implemented properly and not remain on paper,” said Dr Ravikant Singh, a resident doctor at KEM Hospital.