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Pre-arrest bail in offences against healthcare professionals is inconsistent with legal mandate: Kerala High Court

The Kerala High Court found that giving pre-arrest bail to an accused who allegedly assaulted a healthcare worker will convey the incorrect message to the public through Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas in the case of Arun P. v. State of Kerala ( Bail Application. No. 3186 of 2022).

FACTS OF THE CASE:
Petitioner is accused of wrongfully restraining and threatening a doctor on her route from the doctor’s room to the hospital’s casualty, obstructing her official duty and violating sections 341, 353 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, as well as sections 3 and 4(1) of the Healthcare Act.

In response to the allegations, the petitioner claimed that he was in an accident on 10-04-2022 and was instructed to seek an X-ray report of his spine owing to ongoing pain. Despite the fact that he had been waiting for more than an hour and a half, his X-ray was not taken, and the de-facto complainant reacted hostilely and threatened not to treat him. Later, he learned that a complaint had been filed against him, which resulted in the registration of the current crime.

JUDGEMENT:

The Court relied on the definition of the word “violence” under Section 2(e) of the Healthcare Act to determine the petitioner’s suspicion of offence. According to the definition, any harm, intimidation, obstruction, or hindrance to a healthcare service employee in the course of their duties is considered violence. Section 3 of the Healthcare Act bans violence against healthcare service providers, and section 4(4) of the Act makes it non-bailable.

The Court stated that any intimidation, obstruction, or hindrance to a healthcare service provider must be prohibited. The salutary goal of the Healthcare Act, as well as the broad definition of violence, cannot be overlooked while examining an application for pre-arrest bail. 

The legislative goal is clear from the definition of the word “violence” and the fact that the offence has been declared non-bailable. Even an obstacle or hindrance made against a healthcare worker is considered a serious offence under the law. As a result, it cannot be maintained that the absence of an assault on the doctor entitles a person accused of a Healthcare Act offence to be freed on a pre-arrest bond. This Court considered that by providing pre-arrest bail in non-bailable conduct, the court is effectively transforming a non-bailable offence into a bailable offence.

As a result, the Court refused the petitioner’s request for pre-arrest bail. However, the Court added that if the petitioner surrenders himself to the Investigating Officer within seven days, the officer shall subject him to interrogation, and if the petitioner is arrested following interrogation, the Investigating Officer shall immediately produce him before the jurisdictional Magistrate, and if any application for bail is preferred, the same shall be considered by the Magistrate in accordance with the law.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY REETI SHETTY

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