A two-judge Bench comprising of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice Hrishikesh Roy has held that fixing two different retirement age for AYUSH and CHS doctors is not justified. The Court held that the mode of treatment itself does not qualify as an intelligible differentia.
Appeals were preferred before the Supreme Court by NDMC against the Judgment passed by the Delhi High Court upholding the order passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal, Principal Bench which had held that ayurvedic doctors covered under AYUSH are also entitled to the benefit of enhanced superannuation age of 65 years from 60 years, as available to the allopathic doctors.
The Appellant contended that the benefit of enhanced retirement age should have been extended only from the date when the circular was issued by the AYUSH Ministry notifying that the superannuation age of ayurvedic doctors would be 65 years, which was issued during the pendency of the writ petition. Also, it was argued that the Respondent doctors would be disentitled to claim any equitable relief by way of arrear of salary as they were to remain in service on the strength of interim orders of the Court.
While the Respondents contended that there can be no separate service provision in so far as the superannuation age was concerned between the AYUSH and allopathy doctors, such classification amounted to discrimination and violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.
The Court held, "The classification is discriminatory and unreasonable since doctors under both segments are performing the same function of treating and healing their patients. The only difference is that AYUSH doctors are using indigenous systems of medicine like Ayurveda, Unani, etc. and CHS doctors are using Allopathy for tending to their patients. Therefore, such unreasonable classification and discrimination based on it would surely be inconsistent with Article 14 of the Constitution."
The Bench observed, "The doctors, both under AYUSH and CHS, render service to patients and on this core aspect, there is nothing to distinguish them. Therefore, 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 appellant's actions in not paying the respondent doctors their due salary and benefits, while their counterparts in CHS system received salary and benefits in full, must be seen as discriminatory," the Court opined.
The Court held that the notification of the Ayush Ministry for AYUSH doctors must be retrospectively applied from the date on which the retirement age was enhanced for allopathy doctors. The Court also rejected the plea of the Appellant that the state is not able to pay arrears of wages since it would impose substantial financial burden upon the state, and that a principle that 'no work should go unpaid' should apply in the case.
Importantly, the Court held that the principle of 'no pay for no work' will not apply to a case where the employer did not permit the employee to work.
The Court ordered the Appellant to pay the salaries to the doctors within a period of 8 weeks and disposed of the appeals.