Reported By: Salil Tiwari
Last Updated: October 31, 2023, 17:17 IST
The Madras High Court has ruled that the quarantine period for postgraduate medical students on Covid duty will count as part of their two-year compulsory in-bond government service.
While allowing a writ petition filed by Pradeep Vasudevan, a postgraduate in general medicine, now serving at a primary health centre (PHC) in Salem, who sought to include his 150-day quarantine period in the bond requirement, Justice Anita Sumanth noted that the quarantine time was essentially an extension of PG students’ Covid duty.
She ordered the State government to reduce the petitioner’s in-bond service period by 150 days and move up the end of the bond period to January 2, 2024, instead of May 31, 2024.
The petitioner completed his postgraduate studies at KAP Viswanathan Government Medical College in Tiruchi in May 2022. Upon admission to the programme, he had signed a Rs 40-lakh bond and committed to working in state institutions for a duration of two years.
However, just a few months into the course, the pandemic hit, and the government hospital associated with the college needed the assistance of medical students. While formal appointment orders weren’t given to postgraduate students, their duty sheets revealed the services they provided during this critical time.
The single-judge bench pointed out that question as to whether Covid duty would constitute in-bond service was no longer res integra and had been accepted in two cases, where the petitioners were students who were required to perform Covid duty during their course and the high court held that the covid duty rendered by the students should be taken note of as service during the bond period.
Justice Sumanth concurred with the findings in those cases.
Moreover, the judge went a step ahead. She said that an additional question that arose in the case at hand was as to whether quarantine relatable to Covid period was also be taken as bond service.
“The period of quarantine is, in my considered view, nothing but an extension of Covid duty itself as the Rules prevalent then required mandatory quarantine,” she held, stating that the petitioner would well have continued with the duty in the Covid ward itself has it not been for the mandate of compulsory quarantine.
“Thus, taking the period of quarantine also as on-duty, such period in this case is quantified as 150 days,” the judge opined.
Accordingly, she accepted the petitioner’s request for a mandamus directing the respondents to treat the compulsory bond period as concluding on January 2, 2024.