The Hon’ble President of India , on 22nd April 2020, has promulgated the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 further to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
Earlier, the application of the act did not extend to territories which, immediately before the 1stNovember, 1956, were comprised in Part B States, however, now it does.
“Healthcare Service Personnel” has been defined as a person who while carrying out his duties in relation to epidemic related responsibilities, may come in direct contact with affected patients and thereby is at the risk of being impacted by such disease and includes:
- Any public and clinical healthcare provider such doctor, nurse, paramedical worker and community health worker.
- Any other person empowered under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to take measures to prevent the outbreak of the disease or spread thereof.
- Any person declared as such by the State Government, by notification in the Official Gazette.
“Act of violence” has been defined as being inclusive of any of the following acts committed by any person against a health care service personnel during an epidemic which causes or may cause:
- Harassment which impacts the living or working conditions of such healthcare service personnel.
- Harassment which prevents healthcare service personnel from discharging his duties.
- Harm, injury, hurt, intimidation or danger to the life of healthcare service personnel, either within the premises of a clinical establishment or otherwise.
- Obstruction or hinderance to such healthcare service personnel in the discharge of his duties, either within the premises of a clinical establishment or otherwise.
- Loss or damage to any property or documents in the custody of, or in relation to, such healthcare service personnel.
“Property” has been defined as being inclusive of
- A clinical establishment as defined in the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010
- Any facility identified for quarantine and isolation of patients during an epidemic
- A mobile medical unit
- Any other property in which a healthcare service personnel has direct interest in relation to the epidemic.
For the words and expressions, which have not been defined in the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, it has been provided that the definitions provided in the Indian Ports Act, 1908, Aircraft Act, 1934 or the Land Ports Authority of India Act, 2010, as the case may be, shall be used.
Furthermore, the Central Government has been provided with the power of prescribing regulations for inspection / detention / of any bus or train or goods vehicle or ship or vessel or aircraft leaving or arriving at any land port or port or aerodrome or person intending to travel therein, or arriving thereby, as the case may be, in the territories to which the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 extends.
Offences and their punishments
The Ordinance also prohibits any indulgency in any act of violence against a healthcare service personnel or causing of any damage or loss to any property during an epidemic. The commission or abetment of commission of an act of violence against a healthcare service personnel or causing damage or loss to any property or abetment of causing damage or loss to any property has been made punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 3 months, but which may extend to 5 years and with fine which may not be less than 50,000 Rupees but which may extend to 2,00,000 Rupees.
Also, what has been provided is that whoever, while committing an act of violence against a healthcare service personnel, causes grievous hurt as defined in the Section 320 of IPC, to such person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months, but which extend to seven years and with fines, which shall not be less than 1,00,000 Rupees, but which may extend to 5,00,000 Rupees.
Also, in addition to punishments, a person if convicted, shall also be liable to pay, by way of compensation, such amount, as may be determined by the Court for causing hurt or grievous hurt to any healthcare service personnel. On failure to pay, it shall be recovered as an arrear of land revenue under Revenue Recovery Act, 1890.
Cognizance, Investigation and Trial
Both the aforementioned offence have been made cognizable and non-bailable and shall be investigated by a police officer not below the rank of Inspector. Investigation of such cases shall be completed within 30 days from the date of registration of FIR. Every inquiry or trial in such cases shall be held as expeditiously as possible, and in particular, when the examination of witnesses has once begun, the same shall be continued from day to day until all the witnesses in attendance have been examined, unless the Court finds the adjournment of the same beyond the following day to be necessary for reasons to be recorded.
An endeavor shall be made to ensure that the inquiry or trial is concluded within a period of one year. Where the trial is not concluded within 1 year, the Judge shall record reasons for not having done so. The said period of 1 year may also be extended, for reasons to be recorded in writing, but not exceeding six months at a time.
Composition of certain offence
The offence of committing or abetting of commission of an act of violence against a healthcare service personnel or causing damage or loss to any property or abetting of causing damage or loss to any property has been made compoundable by the person against whom such act of violence is committed. Also notwithstanding, the composition, of the offence, in case of damage to any property or loss caused, the compensation payable shall be twice the amount of fair market value of the damaged property or the loss caused, as may be determined by the Court. On failure to pay, it shall be recovered as an arrear of land revenue under Revenue Recovery Act, 1890.
Where a person is prosecuted for causing grievous hurt while, committing an act of violence against a healthcare service personnel, the Court shall presume that such person has committed such offence, unless the contrary is proved. In any such prosecution, which requires a culpable mental state (including intention, motive, knowledge of a fact and the belief in, or reason to believe, a fact.) on the part of the accused, the Court shall presume the existence of such mental state, but it shall be a defence for the accused, to prove the fact that he had no such mental state with respect to the act charged as an offence in that prosecution. Also, it has been provided that a fact is said to be proved only when the Court believes it to exist beyond reasonable doubt and not merely when its existence is established by a preponderance of probability.
Copy of notification: CG-DL-E-22042020-219108
-Adv. Tushar Kaushik