The Bombay High Court refused to grant interim relief in a plea against arbitrary placement of doctors at various Government hospitals for one-year mandatory public service.
In view of the pandemic, the Government requested for placement of the successful doctors to complete the period of service in terms of the bond executed by them. A list of doctors has been published on 23rd September, 2020 , whereby the doctors named therein have been directed to report at the hospitals/colleges mentioned against their names.
The Court was hearing a writ petition filed by three doctors, in representative capacity on behalf of 92 other doctors, stating that list of placements for mandatory public service was “arbitrarily prepared” without bearing in mind a binding decision of a co-ordinate Bench of the High Court as well as ignoring the merits of the respective candidates. They had sought setting aside of the list as well as for direction on the State to display all the available seats and to allow the candidates to fill up their preferences, which would lead to their selection in accordance with merit as was followed till the academic year 2019-20.
The Court stated, “In these difficult times of the pandemic, people in the rural areas need adequate medical treatment and we are of the prima facie opinion that doctors like the petitioners and others should regard the call for service to be rendered as a call for joining ‘National Duty’, so as to reach out to the distressed and the needy.”
The Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni however observed that the matter deserves expeditious consideration and ordered the Respondents to file a counter within 10 days.
The Court noted that the interim prayers made in the writ petition were also “substantially the same”, except that instead of setting aside of the list, stay of operation thereof had been prayed for. In these circumstances the Court observed that an interim relief, substantially in the nature of a final relief, may be granted only if very strong prima facie case is made out in the Petitioners’ favour. Reliance was placed on Deoraj v. State of Maharashra, AIR 2004 SC 1975, whereby the Supreme Court had observed, “Situations emerge where the granting of an interim relief would tantamount to granting the final relief itself. And then there may be converse cases where withholding of an interim relief would tantamount to dismissal of the main petition itself; for, by the time the main matter comes up for hearing there would be nothing left to be allowed as relief to the petitioner though all the findings may be in his favour. In such cases the availability of a very strong prima facie case — of a standard much higher than just prima facie case, the considerations of balance of convenience and irreparable injury forcefully tilting the balance of the case totally in favour of the applicant may persuade the court to grant an interim relief though it amounts to granting the final relief itself.”
A very strong prima facie case does not appear to have been set up by the petitioners so as to warrant grant of interim relief, as claimed. As it appears from the pleadings, the petitioners and the other doctors have to put in 9½ months of service more in terms of the bonds executed by them. Another reason for refusing interim relief is that grant of interim relief, as claimed, would cause more prejudice to the respondents than refusal to grant interim relief would cause to the petitioners.
For the reasons as above, the HC refused to grant interim relief.