MP HC | Difficult Areas vis-a-vis Difficult Services, Issues of reservation and incentive marks; HC puts an end to the battle  between Doctors and State

Madhya Pradesh High Court: The Division Bench comprising of Sujoy Paul and Arun Kumar Sharma, JJ., held that the Demonstrators and Tutors working in cities/urban areas are to be treated as ‘in-service candidates’ as neither the relevant order nor the rule precludes the Medical Officers working in urban areas or hospitals from benefit of being ‘in-service candidate’. The Bench remarked,

“If we hold that the Demonstrators and Tutors are eligible despite being posted in towns (not covered under difficult, rural or remote areas) as in-service candidates and petitioners are not, it will divide a homogeneous class of ‘in-service candidates’ and will create a class within the class without there being any rationale and justification for the same.”

The interesting conundrum in the instant case was whether the petitioners, MBBS qualified Doctors rendering their services as regular employees in the Department of Health Services, State of M.P. fall in the category of ‘in service candidates’ and whether they have separate channel of entry in P.G. Course as per order dated 19-08-2021 issued by the State Government.

As per the Government order dated 19-08-2021, the reservation/separate channel of entry to the extent of 30% in P.G. Degree Course was made. The order covered Demonstrator, Tutors and the Medical Officers, the category to which present petitioners belonged. Further, as per the as per Rule 2(k) of M.P. Chikitsa Shikisha Pravesh Niyam 2018, the petitioners were covered in the definition of “serving employees”.

The petitioners urged that 30% reservation/separate channel of entry, earmarked for Degree Seats for Demonstrator/Tutors/Medicals Officer which made the petitioners being Medical Officers entitled to such reservation yet they were treated to be eligible only for open seats.

Difficult Area vis-a-vis Difficult Services

Evidently, a policy decision dated 28-03-2021 was issued to provide additional marks/incentive to the serving candidates. However, the benefit of incentive was confined to the candidates working in rural, remote and difficult areas.

Although, Harda and Indore, where petitioners were admittedly working did not fall under the umbrella of “difficult area”, the petitioners argued that the policy was issued in Pre-Covid era and considering the fact that Indore and Harda District Hospitals were also difficult areas where the petitioners were rendering their service 24×7 during Pandemic era, they must be treated to be performing difficult service, and therefore, the benefit of the order dated 28-03-2019 must be extended in favour of petitioners as well. Citing the decision in Malpe Vishwanath Acharya and others Vs. State of Maharashtra, (1998) 2 SCC 1, the petitioners submitted that a provision of law may be valid at the time of its issuance but may lose its relevance by efflux of time. Therefore, the petitioners urged that during Pandemic, since all the Doctors working in District Hospitals became vulnerable and worked at the cost of their and families’ lives, they should be included in the category of difficult posting/area.

Accordingly, the Bench accepted the stand of State that under Regulation 9 (8) of the MCI PG Regulations 2000 emphasis is on ‘difficult area’ and not on ‘difficult services’.

(a) Whether ‘in-service candidates’ includes doctors posted in District Hospital, Harda and Indore respectively?

Opining that a conjoint reading of the Government Order dated 19-08-2021 and the rules leaves no room for any doubt that definition of ‘in-service candidate’ is wide enough to include the medical officers and that admittedly, petitioners were working as Medical Officers in District Hospitals, the Bench held that there was no impediment which deprived the petitioner from right of consideration in Post Graduate Degree Course as a separate channel of entry.

Rejecting the argument of the State that the relief claimed by the petitioners was contrary to Medical Council of India (MCI) Regulations and the State Government cannot legislate contrary to the Regulations framed by MCI as prescribing standard of education on Pan India basis is within the domain of MCI, the Bench ruled that there is no Regulation of MCI which deprives the present petitioners for consideration as in-service candidates as the condition of service in “difficult area” as required under Regulation 9(8) is applicable to ‘Diploma Course’ and not the course in question i.e. Postgraduate Degree Course. The Bench stated,

“This argument pales insignificance because present matter does not relate to Diploma Course. Thus, Regulation 9(8) has no application and no other regulation for this purpose is brought to the notice of this Court.”

Since the governing rule (Admission Rules) brought the petitioners within the zone of consideration, the Bench held that the petitioners had a separate channel of entry being Medical Officers in earmarked 30% total seats of Postgraduate Medical Courses.

(b) Whether the petitioners are entitled to get incentive of marks as per circular/order dated 28-03-2019?

The Order dated 28-03-2019 provided for 10% additional marks to the doctors who had their place of posting in the last one and a half year in a ‘difficult area’ as defined under Regulation 9(8). The petitioners, claiming to be serving in difficult situation during pandemic demanded parity with those candidates whose place of service was classified as difficult area and consequently, the petitioner were seeking to get the benefit on 10% incentive marks on that basis.

Accepting the stand of the State was that Regulation 9(8) is very clear that emphasis is on ‘difficult area’ and not on ‘difficult services’ and the area in which petitioners were working were not difficult areas at all, and further observing that the order dated 28-03-2019 was not called in question, the Bench held that the said order is a policy decision taken by the Government which could not be lightly disturbed. The Bench added, the policy decision can be interfered with on limited grounds and when it was not even challenged, it has to be read as such and the Court cannot re-write and insert something which is not there in their policy decision. Accordingly, the claim of the petitioners was rejected with regard to incentive marks.

Conclusion

In view of foregoing analysis, the Bench held the following:

  1. Rules – Definition of ‘in-service candidates’ also includes the Medical Officers working in District Hospital whether or not such Hospital is situated in difficult, remote or rural area. Thus, they are entitled to be considered as special entry under 30%.
  2. MCI Regulations – Regulation 9(8). This regulation is applicable to Diploma Course and not to Degree or Post Graduate Degree Course. No provision was brought to the notice of the Court to show that posting at remote, difficult or rural area is essential to become in-service candidate for Post Graduate Degree Course.
  3. Government – The scope of judicial review is very limited. The Government is best suited to take a policy decision which can be interfered with if shown to be palpably arbitrary, discriminatory or unconstitutional. The order dated 28-03-2019 is not arbitrary, discriminatory or unconstitutional.
  4. ‘Difficult area’ does not include “difficult services” rendered in District Hospital Indore and Harda. Thus, question of grant of incentive marks to the petitioners does not arise.
  5. The petitioners fell in the category of ‘in-service candidates’ for the purpose of Postgraduate Medical Courses and the respondents had erred in not treating them in the said category in the impugned chart/table uploaded on the official website. Accordingly, the impugned entries of the chart/table were set aside.

Consequently, the State Government was directed to treat the petitioners as in-service candidates for Postgraduate Degree Course and consider their claim in accordance with law. [Vijendra Dhanware v. State of Madhya Pradesh, W.P. No.25819 of 2021, decided on 14-01-2022]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance by:

For petitioners: Shri Siddharth Gupta, Advocate.

For respondent/State: Shri Piyush Dharmadhikari, Govt. Adv. for respondents 1, 2 and 4.

Shri Anoop Nair, Advocate for respondent 3.

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