The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to act against states that have violated its directive to ensure timely payment of salaries and perks to doctors and other health workers during the ongoing pandemic.
The Centre has enough powers to rein in the violators, the bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah said.
“You are not helpless. You have to see the order is followed. You have power under the DM (Disaster Management) Act,” Justice Shah told solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Union government.
Mehta told the court that five states — Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tripura and Karnataka — had failed to comply with its June 17 order on the uninterrupted payment of salaries and perks to health workers.
Several private hospitals too are among the violators, it was made clear.
The bench also asked the Centre why the quarantine periods for doctors and other health workers were being treated as periods of leave (without pay) at some places.
It further asked why medical staff should undergo the discrimination of being divided into “low risk” and “high risk” categories while being granted quarantine facilities.
“It should be treated as ‘on duty’,” Mehta agreed, assuring the court that the necessary instructions would be sent to the states.
“The doctors who are going for compulsory quarantine after the duty, their salaries are being deducted. How can this be?” Justice Shah asked Mehta.
Mehta replied: “No argument needed. We will look into it and see that it’s a part of duty.”
He said the states would be directed not to treat the quarantine period as leave. The court fixed the next hearing on August 10.
The court was dealing with an application from the United Resident Doctors Association, filed through advocate Mohit Paul and represented in court by senior advocate K.V. Vishwanathan.
On June 17, the top court had directed: “The central government shall issue appropriate direction to the chief secretary of the states/ Union Territories to ensure that the orders are faithfully complied with, violation of which may be treated as an offence under the Disaster Management Act read with the Indian Penal Code.”
On June 18, the Union health and family welfare ministry issued an order directing all the states and Union Territories to ensure timely salary payment for doctors and other healthcare workers on Covid-19 duty, and saying violations would be treated as an offence.