ANY ACT IMPEDING HEALTHCARE PERSONNEL FROM DISCHARGING DUTY IS A GRAVE OFFENCE; IRRESPECTIVE OF THE PRESENCE OF ASSAULT: KERALA HIGH COURT
Written by Vidisha Mathur
In an order passed by Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas in Arun P. v State of Kerala – it was observed that the Kerala Healthcare Service Persons and Healthcare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to property act) 2012, provides that any act of violence against healthcare workers fulfilling their duty is to be considered a grave and non-bailable offence, even in the absence of physical assault.
The court held, that the legislation in question is unambiguous in defining ‘Violence’ in the broadest sense possible – i.e., to refer to any act causing harm, injury, threat, intimidation, obstruction or hindrance to healthcare personnel carrying out their duties or that cause damage to any healthcare institution. Herein, it is clarified that the absence of physical assault does not affect the gravity of the offence, or its consequences.
This order was passed denying anticipatory bail to a man who restrained and threatened a doctor, while she was on the job. He was charged under Section 341 (wrongful restraint), Section 353 (use of criminal force to deter public servants from discharging their duties) and Section 506 (Criminal Intimidation) under the Indian Penal Code; as well as under Sections 3 and 4(1) of the aforementioned Act. He denied all offences alleged against him.
Petitioner’s Counsel – Adv. R. Sreehari contended that no injury or assault had occurred and hence, the offence so in question was minor and to be considered bailable. However, the Public Prosecutor – K.A. Noushad argued that though the offences charged may be bailable under the Indian Penal Code; they were non-bailable under the legislation that they invoked.
The High Court agreed with the Prosecutor, denying the bail application; and went on to state that the state legislation was clear and has to be interpreted to meet its objective. Failure to provide healthcare personnel and institutions with adequate protection could weaken the entire system of healthcare services.