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New criminal code bills: Doctors exempted from criminal prosecution in medical negligence deaths

New Delhi: The new criminal code bills passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday lowered the punishment for doctors on medical negligence cases with the Union Home Minister Amit Shah informing Parliament that doctors have been excluded from criminal prosecution in case of death caused due to medical negligence.

Responding to the debate on the three new criminal code bills in the Lower House, Shah said, “Currently, if there is a death due to negligence of a doctor, it is treated as criminal negligence, almost akin to murder, Therefore, I am bringing an official amendment to free the doctors from this criminal negligence.”

The Union minister said the amendment was brought following a request from the Indian Medical Association.

According to Clause 106 of Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, 2023, which seeks to replace the IPC, the offence of “causing death by negligence” has a punishment provision of up to five years of imprisonment and a fine.

The central government has now introduced an official amendment that says “If such an act is done by a registered medical practitioner while performing a medical procedure, he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine.”

An amendment has also been made in the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita 2023 (replacement of CrPC) to make the offence “cognizable” and “bailable”. These two are among the three official amendments.

A registered medical practitioner has been defined as a person who possesses any medical qualification recognised under the National Medical Commission Act, 2019 and whose name is there either in the National Medical Register or a State Medical Register.

“Medical negligence by doctors, previously categorized as non-culpable homicide (Sec- 304A), has been officially decriminalised. A positive step toward aligning legal frameworks with evolving healthcare complexities,” the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association said in a social media post on X.

“Medical negligence to be decriminalised. Indeed. Doctors are not criminals!! A justified crusade by the IMA has borne fruit. Must laud the Home Minister for this long-awaited landmark bill that respects the sentiments of the medical fraternity. We wake up each morning to make all our patients feel better,” commented Arvinder Singh Soin, a Delhi-based veteran liver transplant surgeon.

(Published 20 December 2023, 22:34 IST)

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