For doctors, no work should go unpaid: Supreme Court

For doctors, the government’s code should be “no work should go unpaid”

Published - August 03, 2021 10:34 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Demanding wages:  Doctors staging a protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi.

Demanding wages: Doctors staging a protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday held that the government cannot plead financial stress to avoid paying doctors their salaries or arrears.

The State’s credo towards its doctors should be “no work should go unpaid” and not “no work, no pay”, a Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Hrishikesh Roy said in a judgment.

The case concerned North Delhi Municipal Corporation’s reluctance to pay salary arrears to AYUSH doctors after their superannuation age was enhanced from 60 to 65 years.

“These doctors have been providing service to countless patients, without remuneration or benefits. Their services are utilised by the employer in government establishments, without demur... The State cannot be allowed to plead financial burden to deny salary for the legally serving doctors,” Justice Roy, who authored the verdict, observed.

Any discrimination between AYUSH doctors and their allopathic counterparts would be violative of the former’s fundamental rights to equality and dignity.

The remarks came after the Corporation argued that the enhancement in service age was applicable to only allopathic medicine practitioners under the Central Health Scheme (CHS) and not doctors who treat with alternative medicine like Ayurveda.

But the Supreme Court disagreed. “The only difference is that AYUSH doctors are using indigenous systems of medicine like Ayurveda, Unani, etc, and CHS doctors are using allopathy for tending to their patients,” Justice Roy observed.

The mode of treatment by itself under the prevalent scheme of things does not qualify as an intelligible differentia, the court noted.

Justice Roy said distinguishing doctors because of their fields of medicine amounted to “unreasonable classification and discrimination”.

The court also highlighted an order of AYUSH Ministry of November 2017 which had extended the age of superannuation to 65 years.

“We have no hesitation in holding that the respondent — doctors [AYUSH doctors] are entitled to their full salary arrears and the same is ordered to be disbursed, within eight weeks from today. Belated payment beyond the stipulated period will carry interest, at the rate of 6% from the date of this order until the date of payment,” the court ordered.

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