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Madhya Pradesh High Court Declares Junior Doctors Strike Illegal, Says That Doctors Have Solemn Duty Towards Humanity

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Case: Shailendra Singh vs State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors

Facts of the Case

The Junior Doctors Association refrained from their duties and declared a strike by demanding an increase in the stipend amount. During the strike, all the services were shut down and the patients in the hospitals were also denied necessary services. The demands made by the JUDA were an increase in the stipend amount, adequate security at the workplace, treatment at free of cost for the doctors and their families, waiving the fee for the period of extension of the course, and 10% additional marks for the students working in rural areas.

Petitioner‘s Submission 

The learned counsel for the petitioner had submitted that the members of JUDA who were postgraduate students of various branches of medicine had abstained from their work from 31.05.2021 demanding an increase in their stipend. They had stopped providing their services to the patients in Covid-19 wards. Due to the strike, the emergency services in all hospitals were shut down. The Essential Services Maintenance Act was imposed against the striking doctors but the government had so far not taken any disciplinary action against them. The petitioner had submitted that the striking doctors demanded to increase their stipend amount as their first demand. It was further argued that 17 states in the country have already increased the stipend during the Covid-19 period as high as ₹ 85000/- and the Junior Doctors Association was having all the documents to substantiate this. 

The petitioner made another submission that the second demand of the JUDA was that they should be provided adequate security at the workplace as they were subjected to misbehaviour and assaults. The third demand submitted was that if they with their families were infected by Covid-19 then they were to be provided with the treatment free of cost at the same hospital where they were working. The fourth demand submitted was that the medical colleges should waive the fee for the period of extension of the study course of post-graduation and diploma over and above the period of three years. The fifth demand submitted was that 10% additional or extra marks are given to the P.G. Students who were rendering their services in rural areas should also be given to resident doctors giving their services in the Covid ward of the hospitals. 

Petitioner’s Prayer

The petitioner prayed that the members of JUDA should be restrained from continuing with the strike. It was also prayed for action to be taken against the members of JUDA who had proceeded with the strike and committed contempt of the orders passed by the court on 31.01.2014 and 25.07.2018.

Respondent’s submission 

The respondents submitted that the state government might consider their demand only if they call off the strike and resume their duties. They further submitted that adequate arrangements were being made with regard to the safety of the junior doctors. Moreover, the state is also ready to provide treatment to the junior doctors and their family members if they get infected while discharging their duties in the Covid ward of the hospitals. They made another submission stating that no demands were made with regard to the fee for an extended period of course.

Court’s Observation 

The Court while deciding on the matter referred to the declaration made by the doctors in the form of oath when they entered the profession. The Court further observed that the doctors in the name of the strike have forgotten to render their duties in such a difficult situation. Even though the doctors have faced hardships and rendered their duties at odd hours at the cost of their health they’ve chosen an inappropriate time to make such demands however reasonable they might be. The Court held that they couldn’t encourage such a stubborn attitude when the whole nation was struggling to survive the second wave of Covid-19.

Court’s Decision 

The Court directed the doctors to resume their duties and declared the strike to be illegal. The chief secretary of the state, additional chief secretary, medical and health and the commissioner, medical education should call them for negotiation regarding the demands made. The Court also added that the government should take any legal action in accordance with law against the JUDA if they fail to resume their duties within 24 hours. 

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