The Tamil Nadu government’s attempt to placate government doctors aspiring for post-graduate medical courses by declaring all the 174 public health centres (PHCs) remote difficult, to award them incentive marks, boomeranged on Friday with the Madras high court nullifying much of the admissions completed a fortnight ago. It has given the state government three days to redo the merit list.
Calling the admission process flawed and slamming the government for complete nonapplication of mind, a division bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher and Justice R Suresh Kumar said: “To our minds, a hillyrural area can be a remote andor difficult area, but every hillyrural area need not, necessarily, be a remote andor difficult area.”
Holding that the merit list, dated May 7, was completely flawed, the bench said weightage granted to in-service candidates who worked in areas notified as in List A, B and C alone would be spared. “Given the urgency in the matter, the state government will reconfigure the merit within 3 days, and act accordingly,” said the bench.
While List A public health centres (PHCs) are those coming under the directorate of public health, List B and C pertain to PHCs and government hospitals, respectively, under directorate of medical and rural health services (DM&RHS). State health secretary J Radhak rishnan said the state would move the Supreme Court against the or der. “We followed Medical Council of India guidelines during the admission process. It will be difficult for us to redo the admission as deadline for admissions ended on May 31,” he said.
Referring to the near-total takeover of all available PG medical seats over of all available PG medical seats by doctors in government service, the bench said it was startled by the admission statistics presented to it. “PG degree course, which comprises of 24 specialties, admitted 700 in-service candidates, as against 34 non-service candidates in government colleges.The position was no better with regard to the self-financing colleges, in which, 124 in-service candidates were admitted, as against 19 non-service candidates,” the bench said.
“Unless the state government is able to demonstrate that the PHCs, which are located in rural areas can be classified as remote andor difficult areas, no weightage could have been given to the in-service candidates, who have rendered service in such PHCs,” the court said.
As for PG diploma course at government colleges, for 15 specialty courses, 299 in-service candidates were admitted, as against 33 non-service candidates. In self-financing colleges, 11in-service candidates were admitted, whereas, only 5 non-service candidates were admitted.
When the state argued that incentives were given to encourage doctors to work in rural areas, the bench said: “While there is no gain saying that incentives have to be given, to ensure that, in the very least, primary health care is made available in remote and or difficult areas, it cannot be done in a manner, that it completely erodes merit. Our sense of the matter is, in the instant case, merit has been given a complete go-by.” In the Nilgiris, the district head quarters hospital located at Ooty cannot be described as remote or difficult area by any stretch of imagination, the judges said, adding that similarly Othakadai in Madurai could not qualify to be a remote or difficult area since it is outskirts of Maudrai city. In fact, the Madurai bench of the high court itself was located there, the bench said. This demonstrates complete non-application of mind by the state government, it said.
“While the intention of the policy formulators was to reach a noble or just goal, the result reached in the instant case shows that the opposite happened. It is palpably clear that in this case, the manner in which the state government has exercised its powers to identify remote and/or difficult areas, by design or otherwise, has led to unfair and inequitable results,” the judges said.