Gujarat court sentences man to three years in jail for sexually harassing healthcare worker during COVID-19 pandemic

A court in Gujarat’s Mehsana district sentenced a man to three years of imprisonment for sexually harassing an on-duty healthcare worker during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Special judge C M Pawar last week convicted the accused Kamlesh Patel of charges under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Epidemic Diseases Act, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and Disaster Management Act.

Additional public prosecutor Ashok Makwana claimed, “This is possibly the country’s first conviction under the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act after the ordinance was enforced by the Union government during the pandemic in April, 2020 to provide protection for healthcare personnel combating such diseases.”

The court order was passed on September 2.

An ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) worker of a primary health centre at Balol in Mehsana had lodged a complaint in April 2020 alleging that the accused had sexually harassed her when she was on a field visit to check some patients suspected to be infected with coronavirus.

The accused accosted her for a physical relationship while she was on duty, and when she refused, he caught hold of her and forced her to get into his vehicle, the complainant claimed.

Her parents and other acquaintances saved her from his clutches. Upon this, he threatened her before leaving.

The accused again approached her at the primary health centre and sought sexual favour. When she refused, he threatened and hurled casteist slurs at her.

Patel’s act could also have led to the spread of coronavirus, the healthcare worker said in her complaint.

The Santhal police registered an FIR against Patel under relevant provisions of the IPC, Epidemic Diseases Act, SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and Disaster Management Act.

The court sentenced Patel to three years in jail and imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 under sections 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) and 354 (1) (unwelcome and explicit sexual behaviour) of the Indian Penal Code.

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