Won: paid leave for PG

Calcutta: The high court on Friday asked the Bengal government to grant paid leave to 105 doctors who have qualified for postgraduate studies, rejecting the argument that releasing them for the duration of these courses would cause the health care system to collapse.

The division bench of Justice Debasish Kargupta and Justice Shampa Sarkar upheld an order of the West Bengal Administrative Tribunal to grant "sponsorship" to the 105 petitioners, all of them working in state-run hospitals.

Sponsorship in this case means paid leave for postgraduate and postdoctoral studies.

"This court upholds the decision of the tribunal...and orders the state government to ensure that the 105 petitioners are granted leave within two weeks," the division bench said.

The petitioners had first approached the tribunal in March after the health department denied them paid leave for their two-year MD or MS courses even though they had all appeared for the National Eligibility and Entrance Test with prior permission.

Doctors have to clear the national test to study for a postgraduate degree.

"According to norms, 10 per cent of in-service doctors should be given sponsorship (in the form of paid leave) for MD and MS courses each year. But this government, by issuing a notification through the governor, declared that 10 per cent of permanent in-service doctors will be sponsored," the state government had said in an affidavit.

The petitioners contested it, saying that the state could not tweak a central rule and restrict sponsorship to doctors in "permanent" service.

Appearing for the petitioners, advocates Anupam Mookherji and Pratik Dhar said: "The state does not have the authority to modify a central rule. The central rule states that 10 per cent of doctors in service should be given sponsorship by the respective states in each year's MD and MS courses."

The appeal had come up for hearing before the division bench on July 30, which is when state counsel Amitesh Banerjee told the court that Bengal's health care system would collapse if it were to adhere to norms and allow 10 per cent of the 6,600 MBBS doctors on its rolls to go on leave for postgraduate studies.

Such is the scarcity of specialist doctors that the government has also been refusing to release postgraduate doctors wanting to exit the service clause by paying the money mentioned in the bonds they had signed at the time of admission.

A bond commits a doctor to two to three years of mandatory government service after completing postgraduation in Bengal.


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