Tamil Nadu

High Court quashes transfer of government doctors

Judge also rules that doctors do not have the right to go on strike

The Madras High Court on Friday made it clear that doctors have no right whatsoever to go on strike. Yet, it quashed charge memos and transfer orders issued to select government doctors who had spearheaded a strike last year and held that the government’s action smacked of mala fide intention of exhibiting its might over the employees.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh said that out of 18,000-odd government doctors, the Health Department had chosen to issue charge memos and transfer orders only to 135. “It was not done to bring the situation under control but to warn the doctors that any one who spearheads such agitations will be dealt with iron hands,” he observed.

Squarely blaming the government for not having handled the issue properly, the judge said the government should have given top priority to some of the demands, which included pay hike and taken a firm decision. He said even if the government was not in a position to accept the demands, it should have been told to the doctors in black and white.

“By keeping the issue pending, the government was only unnecessarily escalating the already charged atmosphere... The government doctors started getting a feeling of betrayal. This ultimately resulted in a State wide agitation. If the government had been proactive, the entire incident could have been avoided,” the judge opined.

Pointing out that the doctors were on strike between October 25 and November 1, the judge said Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar on October 30 requested the doctors to resume work with a promise that their demands would be considered and an appropriate decision would be taken.

“Immediately, the agitation was called off and the doctors resumed duty on November 1.

“As a model employer, the government ought to have followed up and come out with solutions for the demands made by the government doctors. Instead of resorting to such a positive step, the government decided to show its might against the office-bearers,” he added.

Agreeing with the submissions of advocates C. Kanagaraj, M.R. Jothimanian, K.C. Karl Marx and C.S.K. Satish, who represented a huge batch of government doctors who had challenged their charge memos and transfer orders, Mr. Justice Venkatesh said: “There are not many government servants who will willingly spearhead any agitation.

“However, there are some who will put their interest behind and take the over all interest of the doctors to the forefront and decide to lead an agitation... It is seen that some of these doctors are highly qualified and they have a lot of experience and service. These doctors who spearhead the agitation are not instigating or conspiring or inciting an unlawful act.

“They are merely the representatives of the entire body of the government doctors.

They should not be assigned the role of a villain and singled out and dealt with in such a harsh manner,” the judge said and quashed all the charge memos and transfer orders. He directed to post the doctors in their original place of work during the next transfer counselling.

‘Settled issue’

In the same breath, the judge reminded the doctors that no government employee had a right to strike and that the law had been settled well by the Supreme Court in T.K. Rangarajan versus Government of Tamil Nadu (2003) case.

The Supreme Court had gone a step further and held that a strike could not be justified even on moral and equitable grounds.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 7:48:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/high-court-quashes-transfer-of-government-doctors/article30946637.ece

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