The Delhi High Court has pulled up the Delhi Government for not implementing an earlier order passed by it in the year 2019 regarding payment of nurses working in private hospitals as well as nursing homes.
Observing that the conduct of the Delhi Government could be construed as wilful disobedience of judicial orders, Justice Subramonium Prasad expressed dissatisfaction by ordering thus:
"It is expected that the GNCTD shall comply with the Order dated 22.07.2019 before the next date of hearing. In case the said Order is not complied with, the concerned Officers are directed to be present in the Court to explain as to why contempt proceedings under Section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 should not be initiated against the erring Officers."
The next date of hearing is July 12, 2022.
The Court was hearing a contempt plea filed by Indian Professional Nurses through Joint Secretary Siju Thomas, for non-compliance of an order dated July 22, 2019.
The Apex Court had in the year 2016 directed formation of a Committee to make recommendations for improvement of working conditions and payment of the nurses working in private hospitals and nursing homes, which could ultimately be given a form of legislation by the States or the Central Government itself.
Thereafter, a Committee consisting of 9 members, including Directorate General of Health Service, Joint Secretary, MoHFW amongst others, was constituted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India vide order dated February 24, 2016. The Committee had made various recommendations on the aspects of salary, working conditions and the steps to be taken States or UTs for formulating legislation or guidelines to be adopted for implementation of the said recommendations in case of Nurses working in private hospitals / institutions.
The recommendations of the Expert Committee were accepted by the GNCTD and an Order was passed by the Directorate General of Health Service (DGHS) directing all hospitals or nursing homes to comply with the recommendations of the Expert Committee.
The said Order also stated that failure in compliance of the Apex Court's Order would be viewed seriously and strict action, including cancellation of registration in respect of defaulter private hospital/nursing homes, would be initiated. The Order was challenged before the High Court by private hospitals and nursing homes.
During the pendency of the said writ petition, a plea was filed (by the petitioner in the instant matter) contending that the recommendations of the Expert Committee constituted in compliance of the Order passed by the Supreme Court were not being implemented. The Division Bench of High Court directed that the recommendations be implemented. Non-compliance of the order was thus alleged in the contempt petition.
The challenge to the Order passed by the DGHS was rejected by the Single Judge of the High Court vide Order dated July 24, 2019. In the said order, the Centre and the Delhi Government vehemently defended the Order passed by the DGHS. The Single Judge had then rejected the challenge.
However, the Delhi Government, after defending the Order, had later filed an affidavit in the year 2020 in the contempt petition stating that the recommendations of the Expert Committee were unimplementable.
It was thus argued by Advocate Amit George, appearing for the Petitioner in the contempt plea, that the Expert Committee, which was constituted after order passed by the Apex Court had made its recommendations and the same had been categorically accepted by the GNCTD by passing an Order issued by the DGHS. It was submitted that after passing such an Order and then defending the same, it was later not open to the Delhi Government to renege on its own Orders and state that the said Order cannot be implemented.
On the other hand, the Delhi Government submitted that it was not financially viable for it to compel private hospitals/nursing homes to implement the pay scale as recommended by the said Expert Committee.
On this, Justice Prasad noted thus:
"Despite the report dated 10.01.2018, pointing out the difficulties to implement the recommendation of the Committee, the State accepted the recommendation and order dated 25.06.2018 was passed. Further the GNCTD chose to defend the Order dated 25.06.2018 before the learned Single Judge in W.P. (C) 7291/2018. This indubitably reveals that the GNCTD has willingly given the recommendations of the Expert Committee of the State a go-by and accepted the recommendations of the Expert Committee constituted under the orders of the Apex Court."
It added that in case the Delhi Government was of the opinion that the recommendations of the Expert Committee were not financially viable, it was for them to approach the Division Bench to seek a clarification on the same. However, it chose not to adopt that procedure and later filed an affidavit stating that the recommendations of the Expert Committee were in fact unimplementable.
"At this juncture, this Court is not open to accepting the change instance of the GNCTD inasmuch as the GNCTD, after accepting the recommendations of the Expert Committee and defending the Order of the DGHS dated 25.06.2018 before the learned Single Judge, is now taking a U-turn by stating that said Order cannot be implemented,' the Court noted.
It observed thus "This conduct of the GNCTD is not appreciated. It further raises the apprehension that something has transpired during the time that has passed between the rendering of the learned Single Judge's Order dated 24.07.2019 and the filing of the affidavit dated 19.08.2021 that has caused the GNCTD to take a 180° change in its stand. This can be construed as wilful disobedience of the Orders of this Court."
While the Delhi Government sought three weeks time to get further instructions in the matter, the Court listed the matter for hearing next on July 12.
Title: INDIAN PROFESSIONAL NURSES THROUGH ITS JOINT SECRETARY SIJU THOMAS v. GOVERNMENT OF NCT OF DELHI & ANR.
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 486