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Non-payment of salary to healthcare workers will now be an offence, Centre tells SC

Supreme Court has directed chief secretaries of all states, UTs to comply with central govt's order and ensure payments are made to healthcare workers.

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New Delhi: The central government Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it will issue guidelines to make it mandatory for states to pay salaries to healthcare workers, and non-compliance of the directive will be an offence under the Disaster Management Act and the Indian Penal Code.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, S.K. Kaul and M.R. Shah that the order will be issued Thursday.

The court asked chief secretaries of all states and union territories to ensure compliance with the order.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Dr Arushi Jain, challenging the central government’s new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for frontline Covid-19 healthcare workers that ended the mandatory 14-day quarantine for doctors. The SOP was issued on 15 May.

Jain was represented by senior advocate K.V. Vishwanathan and advocate Mohit Paul.

During the hearing, Mehta also informed the court that the 15 May order will be modified and the new order, to be issued by the health ministry Thursday, will allow a quarantine period of one week for healthcare workers.

Extension of the quarantine will be based on the health worker’s individual profile.

The government will also write to all states and union territories to provide alternate accommodations to all health workers.

It will inform the court about having complied with the order within four weeks.

Also read: Bombay HC orders probe into allegations of overcharging against charitable hospital

‘Highest priority’ to security for healthcare workers

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also filed a fresh affidavit in the court, informing it that the central as well as state governments are giving “highest priority” to protection of doctors and healthcare workers.

It listed the steps taken by it, including promulgation of an ordinance prohibiting violence against healthcare workers, and the provision of tele-consultation services.

As for payment of salaries to healthcare workers, the affidavit said, “The Central and State governments are committed to disbursing salaries and extending other applicable benefits to the doctor employed in medical and healthcare establishments. Any instance to the contrary will be immediately forwarded to the concerned State and followed up with the concerned authorities for necessary action.”

Cannot have dissatisfied soldiers in Covid war: SC

Earlier this month, the central government had responded to Dr Jain’s plea, saying the healthcare workers had the “final responsibility” to protect themselves from Covid-19.

In its affidavit, the Union health ministry had said hospital infection control committees were responsible for implementing Covid-19 prevention and control activities, but ultimately “it is also his/her responsibility to adequately train himself/herself and take all possible measures for preventing the infection”.

However, during the last hearing on 12 June, the court had pulled up the central government over reports about non-payment of salaries and lack of proper accommodation to doctors engaged in the fight against Covid-19.

In the past few weeks, several reports have emerged about non-payment of salaries to doctors and healthcare workers. In Delhi, doctors from government hospitals like Hindu Rao and Kasturba Hospital even threatened mass resignation if their dues were not paid.

Justice Bhushan had then remarked that the country cannot afford to have dissatisfied soldiers in a war.

“Covid crisis is like a war and doctors are the government’s soldiers. Such matters should not require court intervention,” the bench had told Solicitor General Mehta, who then assured the court that he will take up the issues with the higher authorities.

Also read: Doctors at Delhi hospitals threaten to resign over no salaries, HC orders NDMC to pay up


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