When a crime against a doctor, nurse, or other member of the medical profession is reported, the Kerala High Court directed the police to file first information reports (FIRs) within an hour [Kerala Private Hospitals Association v. Adv. Sabu P. Joseph and Others].
This can be done for offences under the special legislation or the Indian Penal Code (IPC), according to a division bench, but it must be done within an hour of the crime being reported in order to guarantee prompt action against the perpetrators.
“However, as a first step, in addition to the earlier directions, we are of the firm view that every incident of attack on a Doctor or a Healthcare Professional, including any other staff of the Hospital – be that Security or other – will have to be taken cognizance of by the Station House Officer of the concerned Police Station not later than one hour from the time on which it is reported to him. This can be under the Special Law applicable, or under the Indian Penal Code; but an FIR will be need to be registered within the afore time frame, which alone will ensure that the perpetrator/s understands that action is swift and quick,” the order said.
The Court was deliberating a case filed by the Kerala Private Hospitals Association over the rates hospitals may charge for room rent, post-operative problems, and other services in accordance with sporadic decisions from the government. But during the past two years, the investigation has shifted its attention to attacks on healthcare personnel that were worse during the epidemic.
However, it was claimed that around 138 attacks—or 11–12 attacks each month—on healthcare personnel occurred in the previous 12 months.
According to the court, these crimes against medical workers occur because the perpetrators may believe that because the legal system is cumbersome, no action would be done against hospitals or authorities.
“We are hence guided to believe, prima facie, that it is perhaps because citizens get the impression that the processes of law are slow and that they would not be taken to task, that such recurrent occurrences happen. The fact that the government hospital system is overwhelmed and that the number of patients are escalating by the day, are common knowledge. Unless the doctors and healthcare professionals are able to act in peace and calm, it would become impossible for the system itself to sustain,” the order said.
As a result, the Court mandated that FIRs be filed as soon as such reports regarding attacks are received.
In addition, it urged the government to make known the seriousness of the crime and consequences of attacks on medical professionals.