DOCTORS AT the district level are embroiled in a legal battle with the state government over the extension of retirement age in the state. After the public health department initiated a proposal to increase the retirement age of top-level medical officers from 60 to 65 in May, many district-level doctors pegged it as a case of “selective bias”, saying it has hampered the long-pending promotions of doctors ranked lower.
In a petition filed before the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court in May, doctors have demanded the quashing of the proposal to increase the retirement age of Class I medical officers.
Another petition filed last year challenges two government resolutions (2015 and 2018) that extended the retirement age of many senior doctors from 58 to 60.
On May 31, close to 150 doctors occupying the posts of joint director, deputy director, district health officer, civil surgeon, whose retirement was due got an extension to work after the state government extended retirement age.
“But another 200 medical officers occupying lower posts were relieved on May 31. There is disparity in the system,” said Dr Radhakishan Pawar, president of the District Health Officers Association. The association has written to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, highlighting the issue.
Another doctor, based out of Thane, said the retirement age has only been increased for Group A (Class I) officers. “Either the retirement age should be increased uniformly for all doctors or for none. This selective bias has affected our chances of promotion,” the doctor said.
The Group A comprises director, civil surgeon, district health officer, joint director and deputy director postings. Group B are mostly rural and tribal doctors with BMS or BAMS degrees.
On August 29, 2018, the state government passed a government resolution (GR) to extend the retirement age from 58 to 60 for 144 doctors, belonging to Group A, all occupying plush posts in the Directorate of Health Services (DHS).
In 2015, a similar GR was passed to benefit 250 doctors. In the GR, the public health department observed that there is already a dearth of doctors and it was facing difficulty in filling up rural postings, and increasing the retirement age will help prolong service.
In May, the DHS asked its deputy directors to provide a list of medical officers from Group A and Group B, so as to formulate a proposal for extending the retirement age from 60 to 65.
“But only those doctors belonging to Group A are given an extension, those in Group B are ignored,” a district health officer said.
A writ petition, filed by Dr S Kadam, challenges the 2018 GR, stating that it is illegal to selectively allow certain retired doctors to continue service.
Dr Anup Kumar Yadav, director in-charge of the DHS, said a proposal had been mooted to increase the retirement age to 65. “The DHS has submitted its response to the state government. We have advised against increasing the retirement age,” he said.
According to DHS officials, top-level officers remain divided on the extension of retirement age for just Group A doctors. Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced there is a need to raise the retirement age of all non-teaching doctors to 65 to plug the increasing doctor-patient ratio.