Supreme Court says distinguishing between Ayush and allopathic doctors unreasonable, discriminatory

The Supreme Court has held that the classification between the Ayurvedic Doctors covered under AYUSH and Allopathic Doctors covered under the Central Health Scheme (CHS) is discriminatory and unreasonable, since doctors under both segments are performing the same function of treating and healing their patients.

The Division Bench of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Hrishikesh Rao, after hearing the parties and agreeing with the findings of the Tribunal and the Delhi High Court, yesterday observed, "The only difference is that AYUSH doctors are using indigenous systems of medicine like Ayurveda and Unani, while CHS doctors are using Allopathy for tending to their patients. In our understanding, the mode of treatment by itself under the prevalent scheme of things does not qualify as an intelligible differentia."

The petition has been filed by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, challenging the order of the Central Administrative Tribunal that declared that the applicants who are ayurvedic doctors covered under AYUSH, are also entitled to the benefit of enhanced superannuation age of 65 years (raised from 60 years), just like the   allopathic doctors.

Senior Advocate R Balasubramaniam, appearing for the appellant, contended that the benefit of enhanced retirement age should have been extended only with effect from September 27, 2017 as per the AYUSH Ministry’s decision, as there is limited scope for interference on a cut-­off date, stipulated by the government.

He further contended that the appellants should not be burdened with the liability to disburse the unpaid arrear salary to the respondents.

Opposing the contentions of the appellant, the Counsel on behalf of the Respondents argued that the action of the authorities in treatment of allopathic Doctors vis­-à-­vis the ayurvedic doctors was discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

He further argued that there can be no separate service condition in so far as the superannuation age is concerned between allopathic and other category doctors,   particularly when the AYUSH Ministry itself on November 24, 2017 had enhanced the retirement age for non-­allopathic doctors with effect from September 27, 2017, in tune with the Ministry's May 31, 2016 order.

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While considering the issue of age of superannuation, the Bench further held that no rational justification is seen for having different dates for bestowing the benefit of extended age of superannuation to these two categories of doctors.

The Court dismissed the appeal filed by NDMC and ordered that the respondent doctors are entitled to their full salary arrears and that must be disbursed within eight weeks from the date of the order. Belated payment beyond the stipulated period will carry interest at the rate of six percent from the date of this order until the date of payment, it added.