Thiruvananthapuram: Setting aside the order of Kerala Administrative Tribunal while calling it unjustifiable, the Kerala High Court has held that the medico; who secured admission in MD (Pulmonary Medicine) in the quota for Insurance Medical Service (IMS) cannot be permitted to switch over to the Health Services Department.
The decision came in view of the compulsory service bond that the medico had signed with the IMS authorities, according to which, he was obligated to serve IMS for the period that was accorded to at the time of his admission under the IMS quota.
At the time of the PG admission under the IMS quota, the medical students have to sign a compulsory service bond. The bond mandates the students to serve the Insurance Medical Services Department for a period of 10 years or superannuation whichever is earlier. Alternatively, if the medicos need to pursue their career somewhere else before the completion of the stipulated period, they would have to pay a stipulated amount to the concerned authority as the penalty.
In this case concerning Dr Praveen, who did MD (Pulmonary Medicine) under IMS in-service quota, the total amount to be paid would be the amount spent by the government for his studies including the stipend/salary disbursed to the medico during the period with interest thereon. That, in addition to Rs 20,00,000 payable by the medico for not continuing in the IMS after the PG Course.
The case, before the bench was presented by the Director of Insurance Service and the Government against an order passed by the Kerala Administrative Tribunal, which directed IMS to relieve the PG medico from abiding with the service bond and permitted him to serve Health Service Department.
The doctor was working in the IMS as Assistant Insurance Medical Officer when he got admission for PG course. He had secured admission under in-service quota for IMS. At the time of admission, he had given a declaration to the effect that he “will serve IMS Department in the specialist post immediately or as and when required by the Government, on successfully completing the course and on posting orders against the posts given by the Director of Insurance Medical Services.”
However, after the course, he wanted to join the Health Services Department as Assistant Surgeon, instead of the IMS. The IMS authorities refused to issue him relieving letter, pointing out the service bond executed by him. Challenging the said refusal, he approached the Tribunal.
Relying his case entirely on the clauses in the admission prospectus, he submitted before KAT that the service quota candidates need only serve the government after course, not the IMS. On the basis of this, KAT directed the IMS to relieve him. Hence, the HC appeal by the government and the Director of Insurance Service.
The division Bench of honourable Justices V Chitambaresh and Narayana Pisharadi observed that the Government agreed to incur the said expenses on condition that after successful completion of the PG course within the prescribed period, the medico would serve the IMS Department for a period of 10 or 12 or till superannuation whichever is earlier.
Then, the bench noted the contention of the doctor in which he submitted that he need only serve the government not the IMS. The clause in support of that, submitted by the doctor, is mentioned below,
“In the case of Service Quota candidates, he/she shall serve the Government for a period of 10 years or up to superannuation whichever is earlier, after the completion of the course. Service candidates who get admission under service quota and have not completed the period of probation as on the day before the date of admission will have to serve the Government for an additional period of 2 years.”
The bench reckoned that the medico “cannot be permitted to wriggle out of the obligation and slide to the Health Services Department on the ground that it is also under the Government”. It observed,
“The respondent would not have secured admission in M.D. (Pulmonary Medicine) but for the fact that there was a departmental quota for Insurance Medical Services. The respondent was accommodated in the quota earmarked and the Government undertook to pay the salary and allowances during the period of study. The respondent was sanctioned deputation benefits for undergoing the Post Graduate Course under the quota and the period treated as on duty subject to conditions.
The same obliged the respondent to serve the Insurance Medical Services for a minimum period of 10 years or till superannuation after the successful completion of the course.”
The court held that insurance medical services are primarily meant to give medical aid to the employees covered by the Employees’ State Insurance Act. It is with the object to obtain expertise for the doctors who treat such employees has the quota been earmarked for admission to the PG Courses. The medico “having secured admission in the quota for Insurance Medical Services cannot be permitted to switch over to the Health Services Department which is more lucrative.”
The court, in its conclusion, stated,
“It is not as if the respondent would ever be tied down to the Insurance Medical Services on bonded slavery and there is a way to exit from the Department. The honourable way is to pay the liquidated damages fixed by the Government by the respondent and get himself relieved from the Insurance Medical Services to join elsewhere.”
Ultimately, setting aside the tribunal’s order, the bench stated an excerpt from earlier judgment which held, “Medical profession – tough as it is and, perhaps, lucrative as it may be – is not all about money; it has still an element of service.”
Attached is the detailed judgment below: