Specialist Doctors' Refusal to Work in Govt. Hospitals Infringes Fundamental Rights of Poor and Needy Patients: Madras High Court

Madras HC rules refusal of specialist doctors to work in govt. hospitals violates rights of poor patients. Upholds bonded service obligation in S.Sahana Priyankaa v. The State of Tamil Nadu & Ors.

In a recent ruling, the Madras High Court emphasized that doctors who have completed specialized medical courses and refuse to work in government hospitals are violating the rights of poor and needy patients. The court reaffirmed the requirement for medical graduates to fulfill a bonded service in government medical institutions.

The bench highlighted that the public has a rightful expectation for these specialists to utilize their expertise for the benefit of the sick, impoverished, and needy individuals during their training period. It asserted that since these doctors have received their post-graduate training at minimal cost, often funded by resources from the less fortunate, it is only fair for them to serve the underprivileged population, not just nationally, but particularly within the state of Tamil Nadu.

Justice S.M. Subramaniam, presiding over the case, emphasized, "Providing adequate medical care is an essential aspect protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The government has a responsibility to provide healthcare to those who cannot afford it, especially those admitted to government hospitals." He criticized the stance of doctors who fail to adhere to this responsibility, emphasizing that the medical profession is noble, and practitioners must abide by the regulations set by the Medical Council of India and the government. He also pointed out the significant taxpayer funds invested in the training of doctors, stressing that even the economically disadvantaged contribute to this through various forms of taxation.

Advocate Suhrith Parthasarathy represented the petitioners in the case, while GA K. Tippu Sulthan appeared for the respondents. The petitioners contested the appointments made by the Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine under the Tamil Nadu Government Servants (Conditions of Services) Act, 2016. These appointments as Assistant Surgeons were contingent upon fulfilling a bond agreement to serve in government medical colleges and hospitals for a specified period after completing their post-graduate medical courses.

The petitioners argued that their service during the COVID-19 pandemic should have been considered as fulfilling the bond period. However, the government argued that pandemic duties were part of their training and did not equate to bonded service.

To ensure that the services of trained post-graduate doctors were accessible to poor and needy patients, a bond with three sureties was obtained from the candidates at the time of their admission.

The court noted that these candidates were qualified medical practitioners who must have signed the bond after carefully understanding its terms and conditions. The bench expressed disapproval towards any attempt, even by the government, to reduce the bond period from two years to one year. It stressed the importance of utilizing the skills of these specialty doctors to the fullest extent for the welfare of patients in government hospitals.

Given that the petitioners had willingly signed the bond and accepted its conditions, the court ordered them to serve in government medical colleges and hospitals in accordance with their appointment orders.

Accordingly, the Madras High Court dismissed the petition.