CHENNAI : A group of doctors serving in government hospitals moved the Madras High Court on Monday to quash clause 9 (a) (i) of the prospectus for admission to postgraduate degree/diploma courses under the government quota in government medical colleges as well as self-financing medical colleges affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University and in the Rajah Muthiah Medical College affiliated to Annamalai University in Chidambaram for 2018-19. The clause excluded the period of maternity and earned leave from the period of ‘continuous service’.
Justice S Vaidyanathan, before whom the petitions filed by Dr Aruna and six others came up for hearing, adjourned the case by a day. Till then, the issue should not be precipitated, the judge orally said.
According to senior counsel P Wilson, his clients are all in-service candidates working in government hospitals. They want to study PG courses and have successfully completed the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test. While so, the State Health Secretary issued the prospectus on March 15 last, based on the recommendations of the selection committee.
Shockingly, clause 9 (a) (i) of the prospectus completely excluded the services of female doctors, who had availed of maternity leave in the previous two years, from being eligible to apply for admission. This rule is illegal as this court in a connected case arising out of similar facts has already recognised the right of female doctors to maternity leave. Hence, clause 9 (a) (i) cannot be countenanced in law. Availing of maternity leave was a constitutional right of the women, falling under the right to health enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution. Availing of the same was also recognised as a statutory right under the Maternity Benefits Act. Hence, the authorities, through the impugned proceedings, cannot overrule the benefits conferred under a statute, Wilson contended.
Similarly, the government has also excluded the doctors, who have taken ‘earned leave’ from the purview of continuous service. Earned leave is a right bestowed on doctors, who have worked for a particular number of days in a year. The government, while giving the option to the petitioners of taking earned leave, has not put them on notice that the same would be excluded from the period of continuous service, he added.