All doctors put in one category due to war-like situation during COVID pandemic: Delhi HC
The court also said that the present plea was not in public interest by any stretch of the imagination and it appeared that the petitioner doctor "wants exemption from COVID duties" which cannot be given "irrespective of the speciality or branch of medicine".
New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday dismissed with costs of Rs 5,000 a plea challenging the Delhi government's decision to put doctors of varying seniority and departments in one category for COVID management duties, saying the step was taken in view of the "war-like situation" at the time.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh said that the May 16 notification issued by the Delhi government was a "temporary in nature" and based "purely upon public need and looking at the grave exigencies" prevailing in the city due to COVID-19 pandemic.
"It was a war-like situation when the impugned order was passed," the bench added.
It said at that time there was a call for duty by all teaching and non-teaching doctors as well as medical students and thus, the May 16 order was "absolutely just and fair".
"There is all power, jurisdiction and authority with the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) to issue an order, like that of May 16, in view of the grave exigencies in the city.
"There was no want of jurisdiction on the part of GNCTD when it issued the impugned order," the bench said and added, "we see no reasons to interfere with the COVID-19 management by GNCTD".
The court also said that the present plea was not in public interest by any stretch of the imagination and it appeared that the petitioner doctor "wants exemption from COVID-19 duties" which cannot be given "irrespective of the speciality or branch of medicine".
On this aspect, the petitioner's lawyer -- Payal Bahl -- said her client was not seeking any exemption from COVID duties.
Delhi government additional standing counsel Anuj Aggarwal clarified that the May 16 order/notification did not change anyone's seniority or hierarchy and was issued only for better management of manpower for COVID-19 duties.
The petitioner had challenged the order on the ground that it was issued without concurrence of the Lt Governor as was required under the GNCTD Amendment Act which came into force from April 27 onwards.
The bench said that in peculiar facts of the present case and the temporary nature of the notification which was issued in view of the public need and grave exigencies prevailing at the time, the order did not violate any provisions of the GNCTD Amendment Act.
Later in the day, the same issue -- challenge to the notification -- was raised before a single judge by an association representing medical officers in the city.
Justice Rekha Palli informed the association's lawyer that a similar plea has been dismissed earlier in the day by a division bench.
However, the lawyer sought time to go through the division bench order and the court listed it for hearing on June 4.