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Parliament gave its assent to the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020 with Lok Sabha passing it with voice vote in a late night sitting yesterday. Rajya Sabha gave it's nod to the bill on 19th of this month. The bill amends the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to include protections for health care service personnel combating epidemic diseases and expands the powers of the Central Government to prevent the spread of such diseases.
 
The bill repeals the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance that was promulgated in April this year. The legislation makes harm, injury, hurt or danger to the life of health care service personnel as a cognizable and non-bailable offence. It has provisions of imprisonment from three months to five years and a fine between 50 thousand rupees to two lakh rupees. Persons convicted of offences under the bill will also be liable to pay compensation to the health care service personnel whom they have hurt.
 
Speaking on the bill, Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan said, the ordinance was brought in view of the attack on the health care workers and the country felt the need to bring strict legislation to check such incidents in the COVID-19 pandemic situation. He said, states have been provided adequate health care equipment to deal with the crisis. He informed that the government is working on the National Public Health Act and 14 states have sent their suggestions in this regard.
 
Earlier, during the discussion on the bill, Congress member Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, the bill may be sent to a Parliamentary Standing Committee for further consideration. TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee as well pointed out that as few statutory provisions required further detailing in the bill, so it may be referred to a standing committee. BJD, JDU, Shivsena were among the parties which extended their support to the bill.



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