The Supreme Court on Monday criticised the central government for the inordinate delay in payment of salary for the strike period to those doctors who had struck work in May to protest the quota policy.
A bench of judges Arijit Pasayat and Lokeshwar Singh Panta directed the government to file an affidavit in two weeks giving the reasons for the delay and naming the officials responsible for it.
On a petition from the Resident Doctors Associations of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Maulana Azad Medical College, the court had directed on July 17 payment of salary to the medicos who were on strike. They filed a contempt petition since the order was not implemented.
When the contempt petition was taken up for hearing Monday, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam brought to the notice of the court that an order had been issued Aug 19 directing immediate payment of salary to the doctors for the period May 14-30.
To a question from the bench as to the reasons for the delay, Subramaniam said that approval of the Union Cabinet had to be obtained.
The bench replied: "It is strange that you require cabinet clearance even after we passed the order. We don't expect such a statement from you."
The court told Subramaniam "the least you could do is to haul up the officials for dereliction of duty for flouting the orders of this court."
It referred to the last paragraph of the August 19 government order, which said, "It shall not be treated as a precedent." Lambasting the officials concerned who issued such an order, the bench said, "Do they think that they are above the orders of this court?"
The bench said, "in our July 17 order we have never said that it will not be treated as a precedent. We have made it clear that the order was being passed in the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case."
The court, however, closed the contempt case.