The Karnataka High Court stated that providing compulsory service in rural areas would constitute a ray of hope for the public and that it would sensitize doctors to the miserable health conditions in rural India.
The Notification Mandating Rural Service
A notification was passed by the Karnataka Government mandating doctors to undergo compulsory rural service for the period of one year challenged in the Karnataka High Court. The notification was passed in accordance with the provisions of the Karnataka Compulsory Service by Candidates Completed Medical Courses Act, 2012 (hereinafter referred to as the Act of 2012).
The notification had stated that undergraduates who have secured government seats and have completed MBBS exams in the academic year 2021 had to register for rural postings. Accordingly, it was stated that a penalty of 10 Lakh would be imposed on any person who fails to abide by the compulsory service rules. Petitions challenging the notification were filed by MBBS doctors.
Arguments by the Petitioners
The petitioners, Dr. Prathana N and others had contended that the notification was arbitrary and discriminatory as it excludes other undergraduates. It was contended that for the purpose of higher studies they had to prepare for the NEET examinations and that the compulsory service rules would interfere with the preparations. It was contended that the Act of 2012 was a State Act and that National Medical Commission Act, 2019 was a Central Act; hence, the State Government was not competent to legislate anything contrary to the Central Act. Additionally, it was contended that the right to practice medicine guaranteed under the National Medical Commission Act, 2019 was being curtailed by the imposition of compulsory service.
Furthermore, it was contended by the Additional Advocate General that the petitioners had voluntarily executed bonds for providing service in rural areas. According to the Additional Advocate General, the petitioners had to abide by the same.
The Court observed that
“the doctors have a duty to treat and the State is looking upon the Doctors and is expecting them to come forward and counter this pandemic.”
Additionally, the Court observed that compulsory service would also help in sensitizing doctors about the health conditions of rural India.
Court refuses to Stay the Notification
The Karnataka High Court refused to stay the notification and stated that the notification was reasonable. According to the Court, since the MBBS doctors had voluntarily executed the bonds, they were bound to abide by the same and undertake the compulsory service.