Conveying its displeasure over the attitude of the government, a bench of judges Arijit Pasayat and Lokeshwar Singh Panta told Solicitor General G.E. Vahanvati: "you should act like a model employer. When the doctors were on strike you (the central government) bent on your knees and extended an olive branch. After the strike is over, you say 'no work no pay'."
The health ministry had issued a circular June 12 asking government-run medical institutions not to pay salaries to junior doctors and others for the period they had struck work in May to protest the hike in caste-based quotas in higher education.
"In case any resident doctor and others who have neither worked nor applied for leave during this period, pay does not accrue and therefore pay cannot be disbursed to them," the circular said.
Assailing the circular, the Resident Doctors Association of the Maulana Azad Medical College and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) had filed the present petition.
The bench pointed out that when it passed the order May 31 asking the striking doctors to return to work, the government had said that no action whatsoever would be taken against the doctors and that it simply wanted them to resume work as patients were suffering.
It said that in view of that assurance, no specific order was passed about their salaries. "Otherwise we would have passed an order on this point also", the bench noted and asked Vahanvati whether the concept of `no work no pay' was not known to the government till May 28.
Stating that such a stand was not expected from the government, the bench told Vahanvati: "Ask your government to be a model employer."
The bench, however, recorded a submission from the solicitor general that the doctors' absence from work would not be taken note of for the purpose of their completion of training and internship and appearance in postgraduate examinations.
As Vahanvati sought time to take instructions to the government, the bench adjourned the hearing to July 17.