HC tells Delhi govt to enforce order to pay equal wages to nurses

New Delhi: The Delhi high court has directed the city government to implement its notification for payments of emoluments to the private nurses at par with the government hospitals, saying that concerned officers will have to personally appear in case of non-compliance
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Published on May 25, 2022 12:23 AM IST
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New Delhi: The Delhi high court has directed the city government to implement its notification for payments of emoluments to the private nurses at par with the government hospitals, saying that concerned officers will have to personally appear in case of non-compliance.

The court’s direction comes while hearing a contempt plea the Indian Professional Nurses, through advocate Amit George, claiming that the Delhi government has not enforced it’s circular of June 25, 2018, where it had ordered the private hospitals to give salaries and allowances to its nurses, at par or close to those given to nurses in state-run hospital.

On May 17, Justice Subramonium Prasad noted that there was a “180 degree” change in the stance of the city government which had earlier defended its notification in 2018. The judge said that now the city government has filed a fresh affidavit on August 19, 2021 stating that the recommendations of the Expert Committee cannot be implemented as it is not financially viable.

“This conduct of the Delhi government is not appreciated. It further raises the apprehension that something has transpired during the time that has passed between the rendering of the single judge’s order dated July 24, 2019 and the filing of the affidavit on August 19, 2021 that has caused them to take a 180° change in its stand. This can be construed as wilful disobedience of the orders of this court,” the judge said in its order.

The court said that Delhi government 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 said that if the Delhi government is of the opinion that the recommendations of the expert committee are not financially viable, it is for them to approach the division bench to seek a clarification on the same.

An expert committee, set up by the Centre in pursuance of the Supreme Court order of 2016 in the case of Trained Nurses Association of India, had recommended a minimum wage of 20,000 for nurses working in hospitals with less than 50 beds. It said the conditions of nurses working in private hospitals should be on a par with nurses at government hospitals.

Committee examined all the information collected from various states, All India Govt Nurses Federation (AIGNF) and Trained Nurses Association of India (TNAI) and felt that adequate salary and basic facilities are not provided to nurses employed in private hospitals/nursing homes.

The expert committee had suggested that steps should be taken by all states to formulate legislation/guidelines to implement its recommendations, adding that their pay and working conditions are really pathetic.

Following this, the city government brought the circular on the wages of the private nurses in June 2018, which was subsequently challenged by the private hospitals and nursing homes.

On July 24, 2019, a single judge of the high court dismissed the petitions, paving the way for the implementation of the circular. The plea, however, states that the notification is yet to be enforced.

The nurses’ association further added that a division bench of the high court, on July 22, 2019 directed that the recommendations be implemented, however, even this order was not complied.

During the arguments, the Delhi government counsel told the court that unfortunately, the then Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) issued the notification “inadvertently” without taking into consideration the report of the committee which had pointed out the difficulties to implement the recommendation of the expert committee.

He said that it is not financially viable for the Government to compel private hospitals/nursing homes to implement the pay scale as recommended by the said Expert Committee.

In its affidavit, the city government said that the salaries payable to staff of all categories of nursing homes and hospitals are a component of the input costs that such establishments incur in the course of the provision of medical services and these are passed on and borne by the general public which avails treatment at such establishments.

“A manifold increase in the benchmark figure required to be paid as salaries / wages will have a ripple effect and will be passed to the general public thereby increasing the cost of provision of such services which will be borne by the public at large,” it said.

However, the court refused the accept the change in stance and directed, “In case the 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 matter would be heard on July 12.

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