Chennai: A group of government doctors has approached Madras high court to quash a clause of the prospectus for admission to postgraduate degree and diploma courses in Tamil Nadu government medical colleges and government seats in medical colleges affiliated to the TN Dr MGR Medical University and Rajah Muthiah Medical college affiliated to Annamalai University for the 2018-19 session that excludes maternity and earned leave from the period of 'continuous service'.
Justice S. Vaidyanathan, before whom the petitions filed by Dr Aruna and six other doctors came up for hearing, adjourned it to April 3. Senior counsel P. Wilson, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that petitioners were all “in service” candidates working as government doctors. They aspire to undertake further studies in various PG courses.
They have all qualified Neet examination and have obtained various ranks. While so, the Health and Family Welfare secretary issued a prospectus dated March 15, 2018 based on the recommendations of the selection committee. Shockingly, in the said prospectus, “service candidates” for the purpose of allotment of seats in Clause 9 (a) (i) have been defined. It has completely excluded the services of female doctors who have taken maternity leave in the previous two years from being eligible to apply for seats.
The said action of the government was illegal and unconstitutional, Wilson added. He said the government also excluded those doctors who have taken 'earned leave' from the purview of continuous service. Earned leave was 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 the petitioners on notice that the same would be excluded from the period of continuous service. If the government had given prior notice at the beginning of the year that the option of ‘earned leave’ will be considered as break in service, and equated to unauthorized absence, then the petitioners would not have taken earned leave.
He said availing of maternity leave was a constitutional right of women, falling under the right to health enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Availing of maternity leave was also recognized as a statutory right under the Maternity Benefits Act. Similarly earned leave was a benefit being conferred on in-service candidates in recognition of the work being done by them, he added....