Supreme Court directs Centre to ensure that states pay timely salaries to doctors and COVID-19 frontline workers3 min read

By- Akshay Gurnani

An application by United Resident and Doctor’s Association says that urgent intervention by the Court is needed, as salaries for many states have not been paid and low-risk classification is being made for doctors.

The Supreme Court today asked the Central government to ensure that states pay timely salaries to doctors and healthcare workers during the COVID-19 exigency.

The Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah passed the order today while hearing an application raising concerns overpayment of salaries to doctors.

An impleadment application by United Resident and Doctor’s Association (URDA) says that urgent intervention by the Court is needed as salaries for doctors in many states have not been paid, and low-risk classification is being made between doctors.

On June 17, the Apex Court had ordered states to strictly pay salaries to all doctors and health workers. The IA states that such salaries have not yet been paid by some states.

Senior Advocate KV Vishwanathan, appearing for the petitioner body, argued that the Union Of India, after the June 17 order of the Supreme Court, went ahead and categorized doctors under high-risk and low-risk classification. This classification has no basis, he said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that after the June 17 order, four states – Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tripura, and Karnataka – have not complied with the orders of the Centre regarding timely payment of salaries.

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To this, Justice Shah said, “You are not helpless. You have to see the order is followed. You have power under the Disaster Management Act.”

Following SC directions, Ministry of Health orders States and UTs to ensure timely release of salaries to doctors and healthcare workers.

On June 17, the Court had given the Centre a day to issue an order to ensure that states pay their doctors and healthcare workers full salaries, provide them with appropriate accommodation, and implement quarantine guidelines uniformly among medical staffers and doctors, regardless of the nature of their exposure to Coronavirus patients. Earlier, a Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan took exception to how quarantine was not being observed for medical workers other than those in the high-risk category.
“Have you done away with quarantine? Doctors are only quarantined if they are in high-risk exposure,” Justice Bhushan had asked the government.
The Bench was apprised by the petitioner association that doctors who are undergoing compulsory quarantine owing to their duty were not being paid by hospitals for that period.

After the Bench took strong exception to this, SG Mehta assured that the period of quarantine will count as duty, and that there were no arguments needed on this issue.

The Solicitor General has now been instructed to ensure that the order directing payment of salaries is implemented within a week. SG Mehta is required to appraise the Court on these aspects by August 10.