The Supreme Court ordered the centre on Friday to ensure timely payment of salaries to doctors and healthcare workers battling COVID-19.
In its argument, the centre said it issued directions to all the states. And four of them – Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka and Tripura, were yet to implement the same. Not satisfied with the centre’s stand, the top court said, it cannot be helpless in implementing the directions.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah asked the Centre to also clarify on treating compulsory quarantine period of healthcare workers as leave and deduction of their salaries for the same period.
“If the states are not complying with the directions and orders of the Central government, you are not helpless. You have to ensure that your order is implemented. You have got the power under the Disaster Management Act. You can take steps also”, the bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre.
Mehta said that after the top court’s directions on June 17, necessary orders were issued on June 18 to all the states, with regard to payment of salaries to healthcare workers.
The top court had directed the Centre on June 17 to issue orders in 24-hours to all states and Union Territories for payment of salaries to doctors and healthcare workers as also for providing suitable quarantine facilities for those who are engaged in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Mehta said that many states have complied with the directions but some of them like Maharashtra, Punjab, Tripura and Karnataka have not paid salaries to the doctors and healthcare workers on time.
Senior Advocate KV Vishwanathan who appeared for the petitioner Arushi Jain said the high risk and low-risk classification made by the Centre has no basis and the government advisory of June 18 after the top court’s order has no rational basis.
He further added that there is still non-payment of salaries to healthcare workers.
The bench was hearing a plea of Dr Arushi Jain, a private doctor questioning the Centre’s May 15 decision that 14-day quarantine was not mandatory for doctors.
The top court also considered an application filed by United Resident Doctors Association (URDA) that payments of doctors are being deducted for the period of compulsory quarantine treating it as leave period.
Replying to this, Mehta admitted that the quarantine period can’t be treated as leave and ensured that he would take necessary instructions on the issue.
He further said the Central government will take steps to ensure that the salaries of doctors and healthcare workers are paid on time.
The top court posted the matter for further hearing on August 10.