The Calcutta High Court today passed an interim stay on a single bench order that declared “unconstitutional” a condition set by the West Bengal government for postgraduate medical students to practice rural health service for three years or pay Rs 30 lakh. Admitting an appeal by the state government, a division bench comprising Chief Justice J Bhattacharya and Justice A Banerjee passed the interim stay on the single bench order till July 18.
The first hearing on the appeal, challenging the single bench order, has been scheduled for July 16. Justice I P Mukerji had on July 6 directed the West Bengal government to explain the reasons for its failure to comply with his order of declaring three-year compulsory rural postings as unconstitutional. He had directed the state principal secretary for health to file an affidavit, with reasons behind the non-compliance, by July 20 and fixed July 27 as the next date of hearing on a contempt petition filed by some of the students.
About 139 postgraduate medical students filed a petition before the court challenging the state Health Department 2014 order, which increased the time period for compulsory rural health service from one year to three years. The government directive had said that medical students would have to pay Rs 30 lakh – with a breakup of Rs 10 lakh for every year – if they chose to opt out of the three-year compulsory service in the rural hospitals.
Last November, Justice Mukerji had passed an order holding that the state government’s directive as unconstitutional. Earlier in July, some of the petitioners moved a contempt plea before the court claiming that the health department did not act according to the order and continued with the old practice. Additional Advocate General Abhratosh Majumdar, who represented the West Bengal government, told the court that the state has filed an appeal challenging the order and prayed for time till a division bench hears its case.
In response to Majumdar’s appeal, Justice Mukerji then stated that the state would be bound to follow the single bench directive, if it failed to obtain a stay on its order from the higher bench by July 27.