ColumnsOrder To Ordinance : Background And Features Of The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 Vidhi Thaker27 April 2020 10:38 PMShare This – xThe recent Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 may be viewed as a by-product of the directions issued by the Supreme Court in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a doctor from Nagpur, Maharashtra (Dr. Jerryl Banait v. Union of India). The PIL originally sought availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for medical professionals, and subsequently highlighted…Your free access to Live Law has expiredTo read the article, get a premium account.Your Subscription Supports Independent JournalismSubscription starts from ₹ 599+GST (For 6 Months)View PlansPremium account gives you:Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.Subscribe NowAlready a subscriber?LoginThe recent Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 may be viewed as a by-product of the directions issued by the Supreme Court in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a doctor from Nagpur, Maharashtra (Dr. Jerryl Banait v. Union of India). The PIL originally sought availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for medical professionals, and subsequently highlighted the plight of doctors and nurses due to incidents of violence. This article traces the origin of the Ordinance from the directions of the Supreme Court, moving onto internal Memos of Ministries, and ultimately into the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. Nations across the globe have pushed their economic stability, healthcare sector and legal system beyond unimaginable boundaries to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. In India, in addition to the hurdle of the pandemic itself, instances of violence against healthcare professionals acted as an impediment to the smooth operation of medical facilities. Healthcare professionals had to turn to existing legislations to seek protection against acts of violence. However, their concerns were not addressed satisfactorily by the law at the time being in force. Noting the unavailability of effective protective measures for healthcare workers, the Supreme Court in Dr. Jerryl Banait (supra) vide Order dated 08.04.2020 inter alia directed the Governments (Union and States) to provide police security to medical professional working in hospitals where patients diagnosed, or suspected of COVID-19 were housed. The protection was extended to medical staff who would visit places to conduct screening of people. The Court further directed the State to take necessary action against those persons who obstruct medical professionals in the discharge of their duties. The directions of the Supreme Court prompted the Ministry of Home Affairs to issue a Memo dated 11th April 2020 bearing No. 11034/01/2020-IS-IV, followed by Memo dated 22nd April 2020 bearing No.40-10/2020-DM-I(A) inter alia directing the Chief Secretaries / Administrators of all States / Union Territories to take necessary action to ensure compliance of the abovementioned Order passed by the Supreme Court. In the meanwhile, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare published Draft Measures for ensuring safety of healthcare workers for COVID-19 services. These measures inter alia provided for human resources management, medical safety, timely payments, psychological support, training/ capacity building, life insurance, etc. for healthcare workers. The directions and measures issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare provided a layer of protection to healthcare workers. However, the mistreatment extended to medical professionals called for a more concrete legislation to protect them. On 22nd April 2020, sensing the urgency of the situation, the President of India took recourse of promulgating the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 (“2020 Ordinance”), as the Parliament was not in session. The 2020 Ordinance sought to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 (“Act of 1897”), and was brought into force forthwith. Until passing of the 2020 Ordinance, India was hanging on to the 123-year-old unamended Act of 1897. In addition to the Epidemic Diseases Act, provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 were invoked to restrict movement of people, initiate action against rumor-mongers, and provide access to emergency funds. Prior to the issuance of the 2020 Ordinance, the Prevention of Violence against Doctors, Medical Professional and Medical Institutions Bill, 2018 was introduced on 28th December, 2018, and was pending consideration. Interestingly, another Bill known as the Healthcare Service Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill 2019 was proposed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which contained provisions similar to the 2020 Ordinance. The Bill was approved by the Law Ministry, however during inter-ministerial consultations, the Ministry of Home Affairs opined that there could not be a separate legislation to protect the members of a particular profession. In addition to the aforementioned Bills, the States of Assam, Delhi, Gujarat, Kerala, Maharashtra, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Tripura have passed separate State legislations to protect the rights of healthcare workers. SALIENT FEATURES OF THE 2020 ORDINANCE Definitions under the Ordinance – “Acts of Violence” The Ordinance inserted Section 1A(a), which provides for an inclusive definition of “acts of violence” in the form of harassment, intimidation, actual harm or injury, or any act that prevents a healthcare professional from discharging his/her duties, either within the premises of a clinical establishment, or otherwise. It includes loss / damage to property and documents in custody of a healthcare professional. These acts of violence are prohibited under the newly inserted Section 2 B. “Healthcare Service Personnel” Sub-clause (b) to Section 1A provides a wide scope to the term “Healthcare Service Personnel” to include doctors, nurses, paramedical workers, community health workers, etc., who may come in direct contact with affected patients, and may be at risk of contracting the disease. “Property” Section 1A(c) defines the term property to include clinical establishments, quarantine/ isolation facility, mobile medical units, or any other property wherein a health care service personnel has direct interest, in relation to the epidemic. Punishment prescribed under the Ordinance – The Ordinance inserted Sections 3(2) and 3(3) which provide for punishment as under – PROVISION OFFENCE PUNISHMENT Section 3(2) Punishment for commission or abetment of an Act of Violence. Note: This offence is Compoundable u/S. 3B. Imprisonment for a term of not less than 3 months, which may extend to 5 years And Fine of not less than Rs. 50,000/-, which may extend to Rs. 2,00,000/- Section 3(3) Punishment for grievous hurt caused to a Healthcare Service Personnel. Note: According to Section 3C, the Court shall presume that the person has committed the offence. According to Section 3D, the Court shall presume existence of culpable mental state. Imprisonment for a term of not less than 6 months, which may extend to 7 years. And Fine of not less than Rs. 1,00,000/- which may extend to Rs. 5,00,000/- Cognizance, Investigation and Trial of Offences: – Nature of Offence Section 3A(i) as inserted by the Ordinance provides that the offences u/S. 3(2) and 3(3) shall be cognizable and non-bailable. Consequently, the law shall be set in motion by registration of a First Information Report against the offenders. Investigation The investigation of the offences under this Ordinance shall be conducted by a police officer not below the rank of an Inspector [Section 3A (ii)]. Further, as per Section 3A(iii), the investigation must be completed within a period of 30 days from the registration of the F.I.R. [Section 3A(iii)] Trial The trial of offences committed under the Ordinance shall be conducted as expeditiously as possible. Further, when the trial is at the stage of examination of witnesses, it shall be conducted on a day-to-day basis till all witnesses have been examined. The provision lays down an upper limit of one year to conclude the trial, with a further extension not exceeding six months at a time. [Section 3A(iv)] Compensation under the Ordinance: In case of Hurt/ Grievous Hurt Section 3E (1) provides that in addition to the punishment prescribed under Sections 3(2) and 3(3), the offender shall be liable to pay compensation for causing hurt or grievous hurt to any healthcare service personnel. Such compensation may be determined by the Court. In case of damage to Property Section 3E(2) provides that in case of damage to property or loss caused, the compensation payable shall be twice the amount of fair market value of the damaged property, or loss caused, as may be determined by the Court. The compensation provided in terms of Sections 3E (1) and (2) shall be recovered as arrears of land revenue under the Revenue Recovery Act 1890, in case of failure to pay the same. Concluding remarks: With the increasing amount of pressure on healthcare personnel, their protection takes precedence over other issues. The 2020 Ordinance brings a sigh of relief to such professionals. However, like any other legislation, the true test of the 2020 Ordinance lies in its effective implementation. Views Are Personal Only.(Vidhi Thaker is Law Clerk-cum-Research Assistant at the Supreme Court of India. Prastut Dalvi is practing Lawyer at Supreme Court of India)  Writ Petition (C) Diary No. 10795 of 2020. Next Story
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo October 06, 2017 Through Operation Barbudo, Colombian Army and Navy service members have closed spaces off to criminal gangs that operate along the main rivers of Colombia’s Pacific region. This joint strategy has been implemented by Colombia’s Pacific Naval Force (FNP, per its Spanish acronym), together with Joint Task Force Titán (JTF-Titán), since March 2017 to weaken the drug trafficking structures that use the San Juan and Baudó rivers in the department of Chocó to transport cocaine and marijuana to Central America, Mexico, and the United States. “Our presence on these rivers provides more security to the region and it greatly impacts criminal organizations, mainly drug trafficking,” Colombian Navy Admiral Luis Hernán Espejo Segura, the commander of the Pacific Naval Force, told Diálogo. The ongoing captures and seizures that we have conducted are a resounding blow to drug trafficking groups.” The operations conducted from March to September by FNP and JTF-Titán service members have led to the capture of 125 people linked to drug trafficking, among them alias “Samir,” the head of financing for a faction of the National Liberation Army (ELN, per its Spanish acronym). The operations have also led to 60 percent of the Gulf Clan along the San Juan Coast being broken up. Service members have also seized more than nine tons of cocaine hydrochloride, 14,000 kilograms of coca paste in process, and 1.5 tons of marijuana from these drug trafficking structures. Similarly, they have located and destroyed 130 laboratories, crystallizing machines, seeders, and illegal weapons caches. They have also destroyed 25 camps used by illegal armed groups, more than 3.2 tons of solid supplies, and 19,000 gallons of liquid supplies for alkaloid processing. Thanks to this aggressive approach, the military forces seized an electric submersible from a group of drug traffickers linked to ELN on July 27th. That vessel, which was to be used for transporting more than four tons of cocaine hydrochloride to Central America, was located on the San Juan and Baudó rivers in Istmina municipality, Chocó department, which borders Panama. In addition to FNP and JTF-Titán service members’ intelligence, research, and river, air, and ground combat capacities, ships and aircraft were also involved. In this way, they are seeking to optimize the results of these operations against criminal structures devoted to drug trafficking in the jungle area of the southern department of Chocó. The surveillance operations undertaken by these military forces extend from the headwaters of the rivers to the canyons where the main rivers of Chocó flow into the sea. “We began on the San Juan coast and have reached the mid- and almost the upper-San Juan,” Adm. Espejo said. “We’re very close to Istmina, in a town called San Miguel, a point that we had not reached consistently on other occasions.” Things are going badly for drug traffickers “Colombia’s Pacific region is where the greatest amount of coca is produced, and where a significant number of criminal actors converge. This large production forces the drug traffickers to come up with new plans for supplying the drug markets,” Rubén Sánchez, a researcher and security analyst at the National University of Colombia, told Diálogo. “Seventy percent of drugs come out of Colombia’s Pacific region.” The actions taken by the Armed Forces along the length of the Baudó and San Juan river basins are also forcing drug traffickers to examine why things are going poorly for them when they try to transport their drugs through these rivers. “Things are going badly for them because there is good control over the maritime, air, and land spaces. They’re desperate to get the drugs out and are frustrated in the attempt,” Adm. Espejo stated. “That has forced them to go into hiding or to camouflage themselves on rivers and streams.” “It’s important to understand that it’s not possible to keep these areas under watch at all times. It’s a zone that’s full of rivers and streams,” Sánchez commented. “Everything is done by river. We’re facing a complex and difficult situation.” According to Sánchez, with the exit of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, illegal armed groups and criminal gangs are now vying for territorial control of the region. Illegal activities by criminal gangs have led to dramatic increases in kidnappings, homicides, threats, murders, illegal mining, the displacement of people, and the recruiting of minors. Civil society, an ally against drug trafficking The Colombian Armed Forces, government, and civil society are joining forces against the subversive groups and criminal gangs that are trying to take over new spaces along the San Juan and Baudó river basins. “Citizens have substantial information on the places, people, and crimes linked to these illegal activities,” Adm. Espejo said. “They trust us because they know that we honor the trust they’ve placed in us. There will always be people who provide us valuable information to combat drug trafficking and organized crime.” In addition to Operation Barbudo, the military forces are providing better living conditions to the residents of southern Chocó through comprehensive operations that involve unarmed efforts. According to the Colombian Navy, more than 36,000 residents have benefitted from the operation through service days featuring humanitarian aid, free medical care, and the delivery of donated items. Greater cooperation to counter drug trafficking “Even though the Colombian Army and Navy cannot solve these problems all the time, the authorities have done an extraordinary job,” Sánchez said. “There is greater national and international cooperation. Drug trafficking is a transnational threat that must be combated in a transnational way. The government is aware of the enormous challenge it must face.” The Colombian Navy noted that Operation Barbudo will stay on the offensive in Colombia’s Pacific region. In order to counter drug trafficking and other related crimes, the mission will continue conducting river, ground, and air operations aimed at dismantling, once and for all, the criminal structures that transport drugs and other illicit items to illegal international markets.