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SC Upholds Imposition Of Compulsory Service Bonds For Admission To PG Medical/Super Speciality Courses [Read Judgment]

Ashok Kini
20 Aug 2019 8:58 AM GMT
SC Upholds Imposition Of Compulsory Service Bonds For Admission To PG Medical/Super Speciality Courses [Read Judgment]

"The laudable objective with which the State Governments have introduced compulsory service bonds is to protect the fundamental right of the deprived sections of the society guaranteed to them under Article 21 of the Constitution of India."

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The Supreme Court, on Monday, rejected challenge against the imposition of compulsory bonds to be executed for admission to post-graduate medical courses and super specialty courses.

The bench comprising Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Hemant Gupta observed that the laudable objective with which the State Governments have introduced compulsory service bonds is to protect the fundamental right of the deprived sections of the society guaranteed to them under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Though it dismissed the challenge, the bench noticed that certain State Governments have rigid conditions in the compulsory bonds and therefore suggested that Union of India and the Medical Council of India may take steps to have a uniform policy regarding the compulsory service to be rendered by the Doctors who are trained in government institutions.

Challenge

The bench was considering civil appeals along with the writ petition filed by the Association of Medical Super Speciality Aspirants and Residents who sought for quashing the compulsory bond conditions, as imposed in the super speciality courses by the States of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and West Bengal respectively. The civil appeals impugned the judgments of Calcutta, Karnataka, Kerala, Bombay and Gujarat High Courts, which had upheld the compulsory bond conditions imposed by respective states.

Legislative Competence of States

The bench repelled the challenge raised on the ground of lack of legislative competence. The court observed that the Notifications issued by the State Governments imposing a condition of execution of compulsory bonds at the time of admission to postgraduate courses and super Speciality courses cannot be said to be vitiated due to lack of authority or competence. It said:

Legislations can be made by the State Legislature relating to medical education subject to the legislation made by the Parliament. The Medical Council of India Act governs the field of medical education in this country. Admittedly, there is no provision in the Medical Council of India Act touching upon the subject matter of compulsory bonds. Therefore, the States are free to legislate on the subject matter of medical bonds. Executive authority of the State Government is co-extensive with that of the legislative power of the State Legislature. Even in the absence of any legislation, the State Government has the competence to issue executive orders under Article 162 of the Constitution on matters over which the State legislature has the power to legislate. The Notifications issued by the State Governments imposing a condition of execution of compulsory bonds at the time of admission to postgraduate courses and super Speciality courses cannot be said to be vitiated due to lack of authority or competence. The field of bonds requiring compulsory employment is not covered by any Central Legislation.

Neither Arbitrary Nor Unreasonable

The court observed that the decision taken by the State Governments to impose a condition of compulsory bond for admission to post-graduate courses and super Speciality is on the basis of relevant material and a policy decision taken by the State Governments to utilize the services of doctors who were beneficiaries of Government assistance to complete their education cannot be termed arbitrary and are per se not unreasonable.

Huge infrastructure has to be developed and maintained for running medical colleges with post-graduate and super Speciality courses. The amount of fees charged from the students is meagre in comparison to the private medical colleges. Reasonable stipend has to be paid to the doctors. Above all, the State Governments have taken into account the need to provide health care to the people and the scarcity of super specialists in their States. Consequently, a policy decision taken by the State Governments to utilize the services of doctors who were beneficiaries of Government assistance to complete their education cannot be termed arbitrary. Notifications issued by the State Governments imposing a condition of compulsory service and a default clause are per se not unreasonable.

Not Violative of Article 19 and 21

Referring to Article 19, it was contended that the compulsory bonds place a restriction on their right to carry on their profession on completion of their course. Pointing to Article 21, it was also contended that the condition requiring them to compulsorily work for a certain period of time with the Government corrodes their liberty, affecting their right to life. The bench agreed with the submission of the State of West Bengal that positive obligation of the State to uphold the dignity of a larger section of the society is to protect the rights conferred on them by Article 21 of the Constitution.


"The compulsory bond executed by the Appellants is at the time of their admissions into post-graduate and super Speciality courses. Conditions imposed for admission to a medical college will not directly violate the right of an individual to carry on his profession. The right to carry on the profession would start on the completion of the course. At the outset, there is no doubt that no right inheres in an individual to receive higher education. Violation of a right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) does not arise in a case pertaining to admission to a college. There is no doubt, that the condition that is imposed has a connection with the professional activity of a doctor on completion of the course. However, the Appellants have, without any protest, accepted the admissions and executed the compulsory bonds. Execution of bonds is part of a composite package"

The State's obligations are not satisfied solely by refraining from imposing limitations on the right to human dignity. The State must also take action to protect human dignity and to facilitate its realization. The constitutional right to dignity is intended to ensure human beings' political and civil liberties as well as their social and economic freedoms

The immediate need of the deprived sections of the society to have proper health care was the reason behind the policy decision of the Government. The objective of the policy is to ensure that specialist health care is extended to the have-nots also


Communitarian dignity has been recognised by this Court. While balancing communitarian dignity vis-à-vis the dignity of private individuals, the scales must tilt in favour of communitarian dignity. The laudable objective with which the State Governments have introduced compulsory service bonds is to protect the fundamental right of the deprived sections of the society guaranteed to them under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Service Bonds Can't Be Equated to Forced Labour, Restraint Of Trade

The bench also rejected the contention that the conditions of the bond per se amount to 'forced labour' and thus are violative of Article 23 (1) of the Constitution. Article 23 (2) of the Constitution enables the State Governments to require the Appellants to do compulsory service in the Government hospitals which is undoubtedly for the benefit of the public, the bench observed. The argument that the compulsory bonds fall foul of the Specific Relief Act, was also rejected. The court also agreed with the Calcutta High Court view that the contract to serve the government for a few years under reasonable terms cannot be described as one in restraint of trade and thus not in violation of Section 27 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872.

Click here to Read/Download Judgment


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