Supreme Court: Reverting back the matter relating to the validity of a circular issued by the Government of J&K which adverted to the provisions of Rule 10 of the Jammu and Kashmir Government Employees (Conduct) Rules, 1971 which prohibits a government servant from taking up any assignment without the permission of the competent authority, the Court asked the High Court of J&K to constitute a Committee of medical experts and administrators to look into the issue of availability of infrastructure and facilities in government hospitals across the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the facilities for the treatment of patients.
The writ petition filed before the High Court sought a prohibition on private tutoring by government teachers. In addition, the respondents also prayed for a complete ban on private practice by government doctors including those working in medical colleges. The Division Bench held that Rule 10 of the Jammu and Kashmir Government Employees (Conduct) Rules, 1971 does not empower the government to issue general instructions of this nature allowing teachers in government schools to pursue private assignments. The grievance of the State of J&K in the present appeal was that the directions issued by the High Court proceeded on the basis that the circular also regulated government medical doctors engaging in self-employment or other activities. It was urged that the rules governing private practice by government doctors were not placed before the Court. Hence, without considering those rules, the High Court has issued a blanket direction erroneously on the basis that the circular of 11 August, 2005 also covered the services of medical doctors.
The Court was of the opinion that quite apart from the issue of whether government doctors should be allowed to engage in private practice, there are other and, perhaps more fundamental aspects which would arise from the Public Interest Litigation that was instituted before the High Court. Stating that the quality of medical care in government hospitals across the state of Jammu and Kashmir is a matter which should receive attention and oversight in the exercise of the jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution, the 3-Judge Bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ and A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ said that the following issues need to be taken care of:
- The availability of adequate infrastructure in government hospitals;
- The availability of essential equipment for treatment;
- The availability of staff-medical, para medical and of a supporting nature;
- Enforcement of conditions of hygiene to secure proper medical treatment facilities; and
- The availability of essential medicines.
The Court further said that the Committee shall submit a report on the state of public – government hospitals in the state and covering among other things, the areas which have been emphasised above. The High Court would be at liberty, after scrutinizing the report of the Expert Committee and upon hearing the relevant stakeholders including the state, to issue appropriate directions and monitor compliance. The hospitals which are conducted by the state and by public agencies cater to medical needs of the poorest strata of society. The need for ensuring proper medical care of a requisite standard has to be duly addressed. [State of Jammu & Kashmir v. Vichar Kranti International, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1160 , decided on 21.10.2016]