NMC Versus MCI Employees: HC relief to latter, pulls up Commission, Centre
New Delhi: Coming down heavily on the Centre and the new apex medical regulator, National Medical Commission (NMC) for disregarding its order, the Delhi High Court recently slammed the ministry's decision ordering the erstwhile Medical Council of India (MCI) staff to vacate the building.
The bench of Honourable Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad expressed its anguish on the action of the authorities for 'trying to "frustrate" judicial orders to maintain status quo with regard to the services of employees and officials of the MCI.'
Medical Dialogues had recently reported about the said NMC order in view of which 92 employees of the erstwhile MCI had been shown the exit door. The move came in accordance with the provisions of the NMC Act, that spell out that with the employees of the MCI will not be retained in the newly established medical regulator.
It was earlier reported that the existing MCI employees were indeed in shock with the provisions of the Act as it stated that employees of the Medical Council Of India shall be immediately terminated with a 3 months severance package, as soon as the National Medical Commission comes into effect. Section 60 deals with the issue of Employees and their termination and clearly stated that The Chairman and other Members and employees of the Medical Council of India shall vacate their respective offices and be entitled to the compensation. The section adds that they would be entitled to such compensation for the premature termination of his employment which shall not be less than three months' pay and allowances, as may be prescribed.
Many employees had raised objection on their termination demanding respite, but the government was firm in its decision stating that "In view of the past legacy of MCI, it will not be advisable to take these employees into the NMC secretariat."
After the NMC Act came into effect on August 8, 2019, the employees approached Delhi High Court and questioned the termination on a vague and sweeping allegation of corruption. The court had granted a status quo then.
However, with the NMC coming into force, the Union Health Ministry had asked MCI employees - peons, sweepers to secretaries - to vacate MCI building with immediate effect. This includes over 92 permanent employees of the erstwhile MCI.
"Since the National Medical Commission has come into existence and their smooth functioning is essential, you are advised to vacate the offices with immediate effect," a circular dated October 5 issued by Amit Biswas, Under Secretary, Health Ministry, said.
It was alleged that all the employees of MCI were involved in corruption hence they would not be accommodated in the NMC. The NMC act made a provision for their termination.
The Ministry's October 5 circular stated that as per the high court order their services will continue as they have been asked only to vacate the building. However, the employees have protested the circular calling it a violation of the court's status quo order.
The issue of the fate of the 90-plus employees of the erstwhile MCI has been ongoing ever since the NMC Act was introduced in the Parliament in 2017. The Act contained a "retrenchment clause" for the entire staff of the MCI. Since then, the affected employees have been opposing the move to terminate them on several grounds including "principles of natural justice", their right to employment and the fact that they are innocent.
The employes then moved a contempt plea with the HC claiming that the October 5 decision violated the high court''s November 11, 2019 order in the petition challenging section 60 of the NMC Act which provides for dissolution of the MCI and vacation of the offices by its officials.
During the hearing on the plea recently, the bench expressed displeasure with the Centre and NMC''s October 5 decision to shut down the computers of the MCI officials, removing their biometric system of attendance and directing them to vacate the premises by October 7.
The bench said the October 5 decision was a "prima facie attempt to frustrate" the court''s decision of November last year to maintain status quo with regard to services of the MCI officials and therefore, it shall be stayed till the next date of hearing on January 12, 2021.
The court also questioned the Centre and NMC how they were "frittering" away public money on paying salaries to MCI officials when they are not being allowed to perform any duties.
"Which system permits such payments? Where are you (NMC) getting the funds to do so? How are you (NMC) funded? Have you taken over the funds of the MCI? Is this how you are spending public money?
"We see no good reason why public money is being frittered away in this manner by preventing the petitioners (MCI officials and employees) from discharging their functions," the bench said, quotes PTI.
The strong observations by the court came after the counsel appearing for NMC told the court that it has paid the salaries of September and October to the MCI officials and employees, but they are not being given any work.
While putting on hold the October 5 decision, the court directed that the computers of the MCI officials would be made functional and the biometric system of attendance will be put back in place.