CHENNAI: Acting in public interest, the Madras high court on Friday quashed all the 135 charge memos/transfer orders issued to government doctors who allegedly spearheaded an agitation in Tamil Nadu in October 2019, as “tainted and malafide” exercise of power by the State government, but also made clear that “government doctors do not have a right to go on a strike/boycott.”
Allowing a batch of writ petitions challenging the charge memos, transfer orders issued on the above doctors who were said to be in the forefront of the agitation - after they had called off their strike and returned to duty on November 1, 2019, on the assurance of the state chief minister and Tamil Nadu health minister that their long-pending demands including pay revision would be redressed as soon as possible, Justice N. Anand Venkatesh of the High Court also closed the connected miscellaneous petitions.
About 18,000 doctors participated in the week-long agitation after several pleas to the state government since January 2019 were of no avail. After a careful perusal of all the submissions and documents presented by both sides, Justice Anand Venkatesh said in his 72-page order, “this court has absolutely no hesitation in coming to a conclusion that the transfer orders and the charge memos issued to the petitioners are clearly tainted with malafide, and it has been issued only to punish the petitioners who were spearheading the agitation.”
Observing that the court had no alternative except to interfere with the charge memos and transfer orders issued by the Director of Medical Education and Director of Medical and Rural Health Services, the high court Judge directed that at the next ‘transfer counseling’ all the transfer orders issued against the petitioners be recalled and all petitioners “restored to their original position.”
Pulling up the Tamil Nadu government for not being a ‘model employer’ in this instance, the high court also held that the charge memos and transfer orders smacked of ‘vindictiveness’ and “are clearly punitive in nature.”
“The fact that the Government is yet to come out with a solution for the demands made by the Government doctors, shows that they are more interested in punishing the doctors than finding a solution for their demands. Doctors going on a strike/boycott, is a very rare phenomenon which does not happen very often. Unfortunately, the Government pushed the doctors to take the extreme step, and now the Government wants to punish the doctors and warns not to make any demands in future,” the Judge said....