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Supreme Court asks Centre to make sure salaries are timely paid to doctors on COVID-19 duty

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Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab and Tripura have still not followed directives regarding timely payment of salaries to healthcare workers who are engaged in COVID-19 duties. On Friday, the Centre told the Supreme Court that it cannot be "helpless" in executing the directions.

The top court had asked the Centre to explain that the obligatory quarantine period of healthcare workers is not supposed to be treated as leave and salaries should not be deducted during this period.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, M R Shah and R Subhash Reddy told the Centre to issue directions for giving the salaries on time. The bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre that if the states are not obeying with the directions and orders of the Central government, then they are not helpless. They have to make sure that the order is implemented as they have got the power under the Disaster Management Act to take steps if necessary.

Mehta said that after the top courts directions on 17th June, required orders were issued on 18th June to all the states about timely payment of salaries to their healthcare employees. He submitted that about five states, namely Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka and Tripura have not paid the salaries as per the complete satisfaction of doctors and healthcare staff who are engaged in battle against the coronavirus pandemic. He further said that appropriate steps in this regard would be taken by the central government to make sure that salaries of doctors and healthcare workers are released on time. He had sought a weeks time to explain the court about the required steps taken in this matter and was granted by the top court.

Senior Advocate KV Vishwanathan, who appeared for doctor-petitioner Arushi Jain, said that the high and low risk categorization made by the Centre has no source and the government advisory of 18th June after the top courts order has no rationale base. There is still non-payment of salaries to healthcare employees.

Jain, who is a private doctor, has questioned the Centres 15th May decision that 14-day quarantine was not compulsory for doctors. The Supreme Court took notice of an application that was filed by United Resident Doctors Association through advocates Mohit Paul, Mithu Jain and Arnav Vidyarthi that salaries of doctors are also being deducted for the period of mandatory quarantine considering it as a leave period.

Mehta agreed that the said quarantine period cannot be treated as leave. He also said that he would take required instructions on the issue. He said the Central government will also take steps to make sure that the salaries of doctors and healthcare employees are timely paid.

Source: ET Healthworld

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