“Degree In Medicine” Should Be Understood Expansively: Madras High Court Permits Siddha And BDS Graduates To Apply For Food Safety Officer
The Madras High Court has recently held that a “Degree In Medicine” which has been specified as a qualification for appointment to the post of Food Safety Officer should be understood expansively. The court thus noted that the term “medicine” would include Siddha and BDS system of medicine also. Emphasizing the importance of the Siddha system of medicine, Justice...
The Madras High Court has recently held that a “Degree In Medicine” which has been specified as a qualification for appointment to the post of Food Safety Officer should be understood expansively. The court thus noted that the term “medicine” would include Siddha and BDS system of medicine also.
Emphasizing the importance of the Siddha system of medicine, Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madurai bench noted that the system was ancient and unique to Tamil Nadu. Further, even when dengue struck or during the Covid crisis, the Government has promoted Siddha medicine. Thus, disqualifying Siddha medicine amounted to branding the system as un-modern.
Siddha system of medicine is unique to Tamil Nadu. It is part of Tamil Culture. Earlier, every temple in Tamil Nadu would have a functioning Siddha dispensary attached to it. I do not know if that is still the current position. I take judicial notice of the fact that the department of Siddha is undertaking researches. During Covid crisis, the role played by the Siddha doctors cannot be lost sight of. When Dengue struck us, the Government itself promoted Nilavembu Kashayam. Disqualifying a Siddha degree holder in the selection process tantamounts to branding Siddha system as un-modern.
The court was hearing the plea by a group of people who participated in the recruitment by the Medical Services Recruitment Board (MRB) for the post of Food Safety Officer. However, after examination, they were not considered in the selection list. The reason given by the recruitment board was that a “Bachelor’s degree in medicine” which was one of the criteria did not include a degree in Siddha or BDS. This stand was challenged by the petitioners.
The respondents contended that the definition of the term “medicine” as found in the Indian Medical Council Act 1956 should be imported to the rules prescribing qualification for the Food Safety Officer. It was also submitted that qualification for appointment was a matter to be exclusively dealt with by employer and that the writ court ought not to interfere in the matter.
Section 2(f) of the Indian Medical Council Act 1956 defines medicine as modern scientific medicine in all its branches and includes surgery and obstetrics, but does not include veterinary medicine and surgery.
As per the Food Safety Rules, the qualification for a Food Safety Officer was a degree in Food Technology or Dairy Technology or Biotechnology or Oil Technology or Agricultural Science or Veterinary Sciences or Bio Chemistry or Microbiology or Masters Degree in Chemistry or degree in medicine from a recognized University, or any other equivalent qualification.
The court however disagreed with the stand of the authorities. It noted that the Indian Medical Council Act and the Food Safety and Standards Act were neither connected nor incidental to each other. Further, the provisions under the Food Safety and Standards Act was generally worded and thus it was not for the writ court to narrow down its scope.
The court also went on to carry out a linguistic exercise of “parsing”, and took each element of the specified qualifications individually. Finding that there were no common denominators between the qualifications prescribed, the court noted that the rule was broad and seeping. Further, Veterinary Sciences which had been specifically excluded in Indian Medical Council Act was one of the qualifications included in the Rule.
Thus, the court confirmed that a restrictive meaning could not be given to the term “degree in medicine” and that the same should be understood expansively. The court quashed the selection list to the extent it excluded the petitioners and directed the respondent authorities to furnish a revised list.
Case Title: Vetriselvi and another v. The Member Secretary and others
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 106