Doctors’ Body Launches Campaign Against New Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita: A Fight for Justice and Protection

New Delhi, July 2024 – The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has initiated a month-long nationwide campaign in response to the newly implemented Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS). This legislation has stirred significant concern within the medical community, particularly due to its provision mandating jail terms for doctors found guilty of medical negligence. The IMA deems this law an “injustice” and is determined to see its revision.

The Controversial Legislation

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), which replaced the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on Doctor’s Day, July 1, 2024, introduced stricter penalties for medical negligence. Section 106 of BNS states that any registered medical practitioner found guilty of causing death by negligent acts, not amounting to culpable homicide, will face imprisonment of up to two years and a fine. This new mandate contrasts sharply with the previous IPC Section 304A, where imprisonment for medical negligence was not mandatory.

IMA’s Stand

The IMA argues that without criminal intent (mens rea), doctors should only be liable under civil law (Law of Torts) and not face criminal prosecution. The association’s campaign, from July to August, seeks to highlight this stance and advocate for changes in the legislation. The campaign will conclude with submitting a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.

Dr. RV Ashokan, President of the IMA, emphasized the association’s position, stating, “IMA stands by its policy that in the absence of mens rea (criminal intent), doctors can be held responsible only in civil law (Law of Torts). Accordingly, IMA is committed to work towards exempting the doctors from criminal prosecution.”

Actions and Demands

Throughout the campaign, IMA members from all state branches will meet newly elected MPs to garner support for their demands. The association has also urged that cases of alleged medical negligence should first be considered under Section 26 of BNS, which protects doctors acting in good faith with patient consent from being criminally charged.

Additionally, the IMA is calling for stronger measures to protect doctors from violence. Dr. Ashokan highlighted the epidemic proportions of violence against doctors and hospitals, advocating for a central law to act as a deterrent. He pointed out that despite numerous violent incidents, convictions are rare.

The association’s letter to Prime Minister Modi on June 29, 2024, reiterated that there is no criminal intent on the part of doctors while treating patients, hence criminal prosecution is unjust. This sentiment was echoed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah during a winter session of Lok Sabha, where he acknowledged that death during treatment should not be treated as murder.

Moving Forward

The IMA’s campaign is a crucial step in addressing the concerns of the medical fraternity. By engaging with government officials and the public, the association hopes to foster a more just and supportive environment for doctors. The ultimate goal is to revise the BNS legislation to reflect the realities and challenges of medical practice, ensuring that doctors are not unduly penalized for outcomes that are often beyond their control.

As the campaign progresses, it serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between ensuring accountability and protecting those who dedicate their lives to saving others. The IMA’s efforts underscore the importance of fair legislation that recognizes the complexities of medical practice and supports the invaluable work of healthcare professionals.

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