This article is written by – Abhishree Paradkar, Symbiosis Law School, Pune
The Supreme Court recently observed that the State cannot plead that they are under a financial burden and deny salary to the doctors who are legally serving. Permitting such an excuse violates the right to equality under Article 14, the right to life under Article 21, and the right against bonder labor under Article 23 of the Constitution.
The judgment was delivered by a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hrishikesh Roy.
The Supreme Court made the above statement in the course of disapproving the decision made by the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) against paying salary arrears to the ayurvedic doctors who had been continuing their service for the last 5 years under the orders that were passed by Central Administrative Tribunal and the Delhi High Court.
The dispute arose after the order stating that the age of superannuation would be raised for General Duty Medical Officers was issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on 31st May 2016. The issue pertained to whether the said order applied to ayurvedic doctors as well that are covered under the Ministry of AYUSH.
On 30th June 2016, the order made by the Government of India had been adopted by the NDMC and it issued an office order on the same date to increase the retirement age for allopathic doctors that were working with the NDMC to 65 years. This exclusion from the order increasing the age of retirement, aggrieved the ayurvedic doctors working in the NDMC. Hence, some of the doctors approached the CAT.
Following this, on 27th September 2017, an order was issued by the Ministry of AYUSH for increasing the age of superannuation of all the AYUSH doctors to 65 years. During which, the CAT had also permitted the application filed by the doctors of Ayurveda and accepted their argument of being unjustly discriminated against.
Upholding the CAT’s order, the Delhi High Court then directed the NDMC to disburse the areas of salaries and allowances to the Ayurvedic doctors who had continued to serve at the NDMC beyond the age of 60 years. The High Court also mentioned that the order given by the AYUSH ministry which increased the age of retirement should be retrospectively applied from 31st August 2016 itself, which is the date on which the MOHFW issued it.
Then the NDMC approached the Supreme Court to challenge the High court’s judgment and contended that the doctors were not entitled to salary arrears since they were working under interim orders.
Supreme Court’s Observations
This argument was rejected by the Supreme Court first it stated that the interim orders had merged second with the final judgment that was passed by the High Court. Furthermore, the court also observed but during this third period the doctors had been rendering their services continuously without break.
The Apex Court also noted that for almost five years the doctors had provided their service to countless patients without any kind of remuneration or benefits. These services provided by the doctors had been utilized by the government establishments without any demur.
Therefore, it rejected the NDMC plea stating financial difficulty and stated that the court shall follow the principle “no work should go unpaid” as a corollary to the principle “no work, no pay” as these services that have been provided by the doctors is both, fruitful to the patients as well as the employer i.e., the government.
The court also mentioned that the classification that is made between the allopathic and Irish doctors concerning the age of retirement was unreasonable. The Supreme Court said that the only difference between the two is that the Irish doctors use indigenous forms of medicines such as Unani, Ayurveda, etc. Whereas, CHS doctors use allopathy for treating their patients. The mode of treatment does not qualify as an appropriate criterion for differencing between the two. Therefore, such unreasonable discrimination and classification are inconsistent with Article 14 of the Indian constitution.
Furthermore, both doctors, under AYUSH and CHS provide services to their patients and there is nothing to distinguish between them. There exists no rational justification for showing different dates for providing the benefits of extended age of superannuation for these two types of doctors. Therefore, the order was given by the AYUSH ministry on 24th August 2017 must be given retrospective effect from 31st May 2016 to all the doctors who are present as respondents in the appeal.
The court also ordered that the respondent doctors would be entitled to entire salary areas and the same must be provided to them within eight weeks of 3rd August. Any payment beyond the stipulated period would involve the interest of 6% from the date of order till the date of actual payment.
Live Law News Network. (2021, August 03). State Cannot Plead Financial Burden To Deny Salary For Legally Serving Doctors: Supreme Court.
Rajagopal, K. (2021, August 03). For doctors, no work should go unpaid: Supreme Court.
North Delhi Municipal Corporation v. Dr. Ram Naresh Sharma and Ors., LL 2021 SC 346