-Report by Neha Mishra
In the case of STATE OF GUJARAT VS DR. P. A BHATT, the question of whether Allopathy doctors and doctors of indigenous medicine can be said to be performing “equal work” so as to be entitled to “equal pay” is answered.
A High-Power Committee was established on May 3, 1990, with Shri R.K. Tikku as its chairman, to enhance the working conditions and career prospects for doctors employed by the government. This was done by a Memorandum of Settlement signed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on August 21, 1989, and the Joint Action Council of Service Doctors Organisation. This committee held 30 meetings between June 1990 and October 1990, and on October 31, 1990, it issued a report with its recommendations. The recommendations in this Report were only applicable to service physicians with MBBS degrees, post-graduate medical degrees, degrees in super-specialities, and individuals working on both the teaching and nonteaching sides of medicine.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare established a second High-Power Committee on November 19, 1990, with the same person serving as its chairman—Shri R.K. Tikku—toconsider career advancement and cadre restructuring for practitioners of Indian Systems of Medicine and Homoeopathy. On February 26, 1991, this Committee issued a second Report that was limited to individuals who practised alternative systems of medicine and had degrees in Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, or homoeopathy.
The Local Fund Audit, Ahmedabad requested clarifications via letters dated 04.03.1998 and 21.04.1998, as to whether the same benefits are available to non-MBBS medical officers holding qualifications such as G.A.F.M/LMP, following the implementation of the recommendations of the Tikku Committee dated 31.10.1990 in respect of allopathic doctors in the State of Gujarat by the Government Resolution dated 17.10.1994.
In response, the Gujarati government’s Health and Family Welfare Department published a government resolution stating that non-MBBS medical officers are also qualified for the benefit. In addition, this letter indicated that, by a government resolution dated 01.07.1997, the Tikku Committee’s recommendations were extended to physicians who were covered by the Employees State Insurance Scheme.
The respondents in this case, who were initially hired on an as-needed basis under the “Community Health Volunteer Medical Officers Scheme” put forth by the Government of India and who were subsequently absorbed by the State of Gujarat in May 1999, filed four writ petitions on the file of the High Court of Gujarat seeking an extension of the benefit of higher pay scales based on the recommendations of the Tikku Pay Commission. The Medical Officers (Ayurved) Association, made up of individuals initially appointed as Medical Officers Class-III, filed a separate writ petition. This Association requested a similar remedy to that outlined in the group of four writ petitions.
The High Court’s Division Bench dismissed all intra-court appeals, ruling that (i) non-MBBS doctors and MBBS doctors both belong to the same cadre and that, as a result, there may be no discrimination based on educational background; and (ii) non-MBBS doctors were performing the same duties and functions as MBBS doctors and even manning primary health centres independently, making them equally qualified for employment.
On behalf of the State, it is argued that the recommendations of the Tikku Pay Commission for raising pay scales were per se applicable only to MBBS doctors; that the revision of pay scales in favour of allopathic physicians was justified by the ongoing shortage of allopathic physicians; and that the State Government had to fulfil its constitutional duty to provide adequate healthcare infrastructure.
The assailed order is incorrect in law and law and on facts because the High Court shamefully failed to recognize the fundamentally distinct nature of duties and responsibilities undertaken by Allopathy doctors and AYUSH doctors.
The learned attorney for the respondents responds by arguing that both Allopathy and AYUSH doctors are appointed to the position of Medical Officer falling under Class-II of Gujarat Medical Services; that once individuals with various qualifications are appointed to one unified cadre with a common pay scale and governed by one set of rules, then at a later stage, the Government cannot make a classification; and that all Medical Officers, regardless of their educational backgrounds, are subject to the same rules.
The appeals are likely to be dismissed because the findings of fact made by the learned Single Judge and the Division Bench of the High Court that both types of doctors are conducting equivalent work do not call for any interference under Article 136 of the Constitution.
In our judgment, two issues come up for discussion in these appeals. They are: (i) Is it possible to set different pay scales for officers appointed to the same cadre based on their educational backgrounds? (ii) Can allopathic physicians and practitioners of indigenous medicine be deemed to have “equal work” to warrant “equal pay”?
This Court determined that the classification of Tracers into two pay scales—one for matriculates with a higher pay scale and the other for nonmatriculated with a lower pay scale—does not violate Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.
Doctors who practice allopathy must handle emergencies and treat trauma patients. The emergency duties and trauma care that Allopathy doctors are capable of executing, as well as the advancements in science and current medical technology, cannot be performed by Ayurvedic doctors due to the nature of their practice and the advancements in science and modern medical technology.
Ayurved doctors are also unable to assist surgeons in undertaking difficult surgeries, but MBBS doctors can. We do not intend for this to imply that one medical system is better than another. It is well known that MBBS doctors are required to care for hundreds of patients during outpatient days (OPD) in ordinary hospitals in cities and towns, however, this is not the case with Ayurvedic doctors.
We are unable to distinguish between Ayurvedic physicians who have already obtained some benefits thanks to the temporary injunction issued by this Court and those who have not.Additionally, we cannot ignore the fundamental rule that states a person cannot be permitted to keep a benefit obtained through an interim order issued by a court if the case’s final result was averse to that person.
As a result, all appeals are granted, the High Court’s contested order is revoked, and the respondents’ writ petitions are denied. All interlocutory applications, including the impleadment application(s), and the contempt petitions are likewise rejected. No fees
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