NEW DELHI—The Delhi High Court took suo motu cognisance of reports published by HuffPost India and a few other news publications about doctors in two municipal hospitals in the national capital considering ‘mass resignations’ to protest three months of unpaid wages, and ordered the government to pay the pending salaries by June 19.
“The adjustment of the accounts can always be done at later stage but the salary is required to be paid on priority to the resident doctors. This arrangement has been made as a special case for the resident doctors keeping in mind the non payment of salary since March, 2020 considering the current pandemic situation,” a two judge bench of the Delhi HC comprising Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan noted in its order given on Friday, June 12.
In the six page order, the court specifically mentioned four news reports—including one reported by HuffPost India—about unpaid salaries for doctors and said it is treating them collectively as a Public Interest Litigation, and asking respective authorities to respond to the concerns raised in them.
In HuffPost India’s report, published on June 11, this correspondent wrote, “At least three hundred resident doctors working in two large public hospitals in Delhi, one of which provides services to patients suspected of suffering from COVID19 and other serious ailments while the other caters to children and women, have threatened mass resignations if they are not paid their pending salaries within a week.”
The Delhi HC specifically referred to this as well as three other reports published in The Indian Express, The Hindu and ANI in its order on Friday and said, “The aforesaid news items are about the non payment of salary to the Resident Doctors of Kasturba Hospital and Hindu Rao Hospital situated at Delhi. Due to non-payment of salary for last three months, the resident doctors intend to either resign en masse or go on strike. The cognizance of the matter has therefore been taken by this Court and the news items have been treated as a Public Interest Litigation by joining the following authorities as party respondents.”
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The cognizance of the matter has therefore been taken by this Court and the news items have been treated as a Public Interest Litigation...Delhi High Court in order dated June 12
The respondents included the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government’s home and health ministries, the Arvind Kejriwal-led National Capital Territory government, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led North Delhi Municipal Corporation as well as the Resident Doctors’ Associations and Medical Superintendents of both the Kasturba and Hindurao hospitals.
Lawyers for all these respondents attended the hearing. The north municipal corporation’s lawyer Akhil Mittal told the court that salaries for doctors in six municipal corporation-run hospitals could not be paid since March 2020 due to “financial constraints”.
He further told the HC that since the corporation has “limited means” but is liable to pay salaries to a wide range of other employees including the sanitation workers, gardeners and others, it failed to pay. The Deputy Controller of Accounts of the north municipal corporation, Bishwajeet Roy, told the court that salaries for doctors working at the six hospitals cost approximately Rs 8 crore per month.
Representing the Arvind Kejriwal-led government, Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain informed the court that it has paid a legally payable amount to the corporation and offered to pay an additional sum by June 18 to pay the doctors’ salaries. The court accepted this and directed the municipal corporation to pay salaries to the doctors for the months of March and April by June 19.
“It is directed that so far as payment of outstanding salary for the month of March, 2020 is concerned, the same shall be given to the Junior Residents, Senior Residents and PG doctors in their bank accounts by 5 p.m. on 19th June, 2020. So far as the outstanding payment for the month of April, 2020 is concerned, the payment shall be made to all the resident doctors on or before 5 p.m. on 24th June, 2020,” the Delhi HC court stated in its order.
Dr Abhiman Chauhan, spokesperson for the Kasturba hospital Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA), reacted cautiously to the Delhi HC order.
While thanking the news media organisations for their help in publicly raising the issue, he said the RDA at Kasturba Hospital was keenly waiting to see whether the municipal corporation complies with the order. If it did not do so, the association was planning to go ahead with its announced decision to ensure that doctors go ahead with carrying out ‘mass resignations’ from their jobs. “We respect the High Court decision, and we will wait till 18th June 2020 for our further action,” he told HuffPost India.