KH.NOBIN SINGH, J. -
(1.) Heard Ms. Th. Babita, learned counsel appearing for the petitioners; Shri K. Jagat, learned Government Advocate for the State respondents and Shri S. Vijayanand, learned Senior panel counsel for the Union of India.
(2.) By the instant writ petition, the petitioners have prayed for issuing a writ of mandamus to maintain a parity of pay between the AYUSH doctors and the allopathic doctors working in the State Health Mission Society, Manipur under the NRHM on the principle of 'equal pay for equal work'.
(3.) Facts and circumstances as narrated in the writ petition, are that the National Rural Health Mission (hereinafter referred to as "the NRHM") was launched in the month of April, 2005 by which an innovative concept of mainstreaming AYUSH (an acronym of six Indian System of Medicine, say, Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy prevalent and practiced in India) was developed and introduced into the health care system by collocating AYUSH doctors along their counter parts of allopathic doctors at various health facility centres, say, District Hospitals, Community Health Centres, Primary Health Centres etc. in the country. The NRHM was implemented in all the States and Union Territories of India by establishing State Health Mission Societies under the aegis of Health and Family Welfare Departments of the respective States and Union Territories with the Central funding from the year, 2006. In the State of Manipur, the Director of Family Welfare Services, Manipur, at the relevant point of time, was the Mission Director of the State Health Mission Society, Manipur.
3.1. An Advertisement dated 19.06.2006 was issued by the State Mission Director/ the Director (FW), Government of Manipur inviting applications from amongst the eligible candidates for appointment to various posts including AYUSH doctor and in response thereto, the petitioners applied for it and on the recommendation of the DPC, the petitioners were appointed as AYUSH doctors on contract basis for a period of 11 months at a consolidated pay of Rs.15,000/- vide orders dated 27.10.2006 and 14.12.2007 under the State Health Mission Society, Manipur. The period of their appointment on contract basis was extended from time to time and the petitioners are still continuing in that capacity. As per the Advertisement, the consolidated pay of both the AYUSH doctors with degree in AYUSH and the allopathic doctors with MBBS was fixed equally at Rs.15,000/- p.m. and a consolidated amount of Rs.18,000/- in respect of Physicians with MD/DNB; Surgeons with MS/DNB; Obst and Gynae with MD/MS/DNB/DGO; Pediatrician with MD/NDB/DCH; Anasthetist with MD/DNB/DA Public Health Specialist with MD/DPH/DNB and AYUSH Specialist with PG Degree in AYUSH. The Memorandum dated 25.05.2009 also clearly shows that the AYUSH doctors and the Allopathic doctors were given the same consolidated pay under the State Health Mission Society, Manipur without any disparity in pay/ honorarium between the doctors of the two streams. The medical officers of both the AYUSH and the allopathic streams, working in State Health Mission Society, Manipur under NRHM, perform or render the same or similar work.
3.2. Being apprehensive of a decision being taken as regards the disparity in pay, the All Manipur AYUSH Doctors Association, Manipur submitted a Memorandum dated 13.03.2010 to the Hon'ble Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, with copies endorsed to the concerned authorities, requesting him to maintain parity of pay of AYUSH doctors with that of allopathic doctors working under the NRHM, Manipur. On receipt of a copy of the representation, the Hon'ble Chief Minister, Manipur, in its UO note dated 12.04.2010, informed the Chief Secretary, Manipur to put up the matter before the Governing Body, NRHM for consideration. On 14.06.2010, the State Mission Director, State Health Society, Manipur wrote a letter to the Mission Director, NRHM, Ministry of Health and FW, Government of India informing that the unequal salary structure in Manipur had led to discontentment among the AYUSH doctors, followed by a D.O letter dated 17.06.2010 of the Hon'ble Chief Minister, Manipur requesting the AS and MD, Mission Director, NRHM, Ministry of Health and FW, Government of India to look into the matter and convey the approval for payment of equal remuneration to AYUSH doctors and the allopathic doctors. Without paying any heed to the request, the State Mission Director, State Health Society, Manipur issued an order dated 23.06.2010 granting different pay from the year 2010-2011 with the result that the AYUSH doctors with decree holder were given consolidated pay of Rs.18750/- pm while allopathic Doctors with MBBS degree holder were given consolidated pay of Rs.30,000/- per month. On 23.08.2010, the Deputy Secretary (Health and FW), Government of Manipur addressed a letter to the State Mission Director, NRHM, Manipur informing that the Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Health and FW, Department of AYUSH had intimated that the matter relating to wage disparity between AYUSH doctors and allopathic doctors be looked into considering the service rendered by the AYUSH doctors in far flung and difficult areas. As early as on 03.01.1991, the Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, New Delhi had already communicated to all the Health Secretaries/Directors of ISM and Homeopathy in States and Union territories that having accepted the recommendation of the central Council of Homeopathy, no disparity in the pay scale was maintained among the physicians. Since the authority didn't take any positive action for grant of equal pay, the All Manipur AYUSH Doctors Association, Manipur submitted further representations dated 11.07.2016, 14.05.2018 and 03.10.2018 requesting to extend the benefit of 'equal pay for equal work' to AYUSH Doctors but to no effect, even though the Director AYUSH, Government of Manipur vide its letter dated 01.09.2018 has proposed to the Principal Secretary (Health and Family Welfare AYUSH), Government of Manipur for giving equal pay to AYUSH doctors with that of allopathic doctors. Recently, the State Health Society, Manipur issued a Memorandum dated 22.10.2018 rationalizing the said salary of the MBBS doctors under NHRM but it didn't state anything about the rationalization of pay of the AYUSH doctors resulting in the deprivation of 'equal pay for equal work' and therefore, the inaction on the part of the authority is not only arbitrary, whimsical but also discriminatory which is violative of Article 14, 16 and 21 of the Constitution of India. In addition thereto, the allopathic doctors with MBBS degrees and the AYUSH doctors with degree in Homeopathy, Nature Cure, Ayurvedic and Unani appointed as Medical Officers under the Manipur Health Service Rules, 1982 are placed in the same grade, ie., Grade-IV and doctors of both the streams are given the same pay under the Manipur Services (Revised Pay) Rules, 2010. Being aggrieved by the inaction on the part of the authorities, the instant writ petition has been filed by the petitioners. ;