The Centre on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that it will issue a direction to all the states under the Disaster Management Act to pay timely salaries and remunerations to all doctors and healthcare workers, and any breach would considered be a criminal offence.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, made a statement before the apex court that the Centre is willing to make non-payment of salary a criminal offence under the Disaster Management Act.
Mehta contended before the bench that the Centre will issue a direction under Section 10 of the Disaster Management Act.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.R. Shah asked the Centre to issue necessary directions to states and Union Territories, and sought a compliance report in four weeks.
The response from the Centre came on a petition filed by a doctor, Arushi Jain, on quarantine facilities for medical professionals involved in the treatment of Covid-19 patients.
The counsel for the petitioner argued before the court that salaries were not being paid regularly to the healthcare workers involved in Covid-19 treatment, and doctors who were treating Covid-19 patients were not quarantined unless they were under the high-risk category.
Mehta submitted that even five-star accommodations have been provided to the doctors, and if there are any lapses, then it will be addressed.
The top court noted that non-adherence to the Centre’s direction by states will be treated as an offence under the Disaster Management Act and sections of the Indian Penal Code.
The Centre’s counsel agreed to undertake to issue an order to the states and Union Territories to ensure that timely salaries are paid to the doctors and healthcare workers.
The Centre also agreed to modify its May 15 order, and doctors coming in touch with Covid-19 patients will have a quarantine period of one week only, and after one week they will be checked whether to extend this period.
The apex court declined to entertain the submission of the petitioner’s counsel to ask the states to furnish affidavits on places of quarantine. The bench noted that necessary orders will be issued with regard to quarantine of doctors and issues with salary by the Centre on Thursday.
Mehta also assured the apex court to issue a new order for suitable alternative accommodation to doctors and healthcare workers. The matter will come up for hearing after four weeks.