BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
- The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued an order on 31.05.2016 which led to the dispute in this case relating to the applicability of this order.
- It was issued to rise the age of superannuation for the General Duty Medical Officers [GDMO] of the Central Health Scheme [CHS] from 60 years to 65 years.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
- The NDMC, on 30.06.2016, has adopted the Government of India order and issued the office order dated on the same date and enhanced the retirement age to 65 years for the Allopathic doctors working in the NDMC.
- Some of the Ayurvedic doctors approached the CAT because they were aggrieved by the working in the NDMC with their exclusion from the order enhancing age of retirement.
- Later, on 27.09.2017, the Ministry of AYUSH had issued an order enhancing the age of superannuation of AYUSH doctors as 65 years. In the mean time, the CAT allowed the applications that were filed by Ayurvedic doctors, accepting their argument of unjust discrimination.
- The issue before the Court was whether the order was applicable to ayurvedic doctors covered under the Ministry of AYUSH.
OBSERVATIONS MADE BY DELHI HIGH COURT
- Upholding the CAT's order, the Delhi High Court directed the NDMC to disburse payment of arrears of salary and allowances to the ayurvedic doctors, who are still continuing to serve with the NDMC beyond the age of 60 years.
- The High Court also held the retrospective applicability of the AYUSH Ministry's order enhancing the age of retirement from 31.05.2016, the date on which MoHFW issued its order.
- The NDMC challenged the High Court's judgement, and approached the Supreme Court. It contended that the doctors had no entitlement to salary arrears because they were working under the protection of interim orders.
OBSERVATIONS MADE BY SUPREME COURT
- The Supreme Court disapproved the order of New Delhi Municipal Corporation.
- It observed that the State cannot be allowed to plead financial burden for denying salary to legally serving doctors. If such an excuse raised by the State is allowed, it would amount to violation of Fundamental Rights under Articles 14(right to equality), 21(right to life) and 23(right against bonded labour) of the Constitution.
- The Division Bench comprisingof Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hrishikesh Roymade observations against the payment of salary arrears to ayurvedic doctors, who had continued in service for five years under the protection of orders passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal and the Delhi High Court.
- They rejected the NDMC's plea of financial difficulty, and said that the principle of "No work should go unpaid" must be applied here as a corollary of the principle "No Work, No Pay".
- It was in the view as the service rendered by the respondent doctors was productive both for the patients and also the employer.
- Further, the Court observed that classifying between allopathic and AYUSH doctors on the basis of their age of retirement were unreasonable. Thus the Supreme Court ordered that the respondent doctors are entitled to full salary arrears and the same was ordered to be disbursed within 8 weeks from August 3. Interest will be applied on the belated payment beyond the stipulated period until thedate of actual payment.
DID THE SUPREME COURT DELIVER JUSTICE?