SC Reserves its Judgement on Assam Legislation for Rural Practitioners
The bench of SC was hearing a special case of Baharul Islam and Ors. vs Indian Medical Association and Ors.
NEW DELHI: The Assam Government passed the Assam Rural Health Regulatory Authority Act, 2004 to allow people who undertook three years of Diploma courses in Medicine and Rural Health Care to treat a few specific common diseases. The Gauhati High Court had ordered its discontinuation after ten years of its passing. Which led to the filing of a petition being filed against the High Court's decision in the apex court of law in the country.
A bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice BR Gavai and Justice BV Nagarathna was hearing the matters regarding this petition. The issue behind it was to decide if the Assam Rural Health Regulatory Authority Act of 2004 was against the Indian Medical Council Act of 1956 while taking into account the shortage of qualified specialist doctors in the state.
There was a shortage of experts in different fields in the state, and the experts did now want to serve in the rural regions due to the lack of necessary equipment and other resources. To solve this problem, the act was passed. It allowed for the creation of the diploma course along with the establishment of a regulatory body to verify and register these practitioners. These Rural Health Practitioners could treat only a few listed medical conditions, carry out certain minor surgical procedures and prescribe medicines only from a list of specific drugs.
The Union Health Secretary applauded this step and asked other states to follow similar procedures. They also allowed the state government to form a dedicated authority to recognise and oversee the working of these practitioners and the central government was working towards passing an act towards the same goal.
When advertisements were published, the Indian Medical Association filed a writ in Gauhati HC. No action was taken at that time, allowing for five batches of students to complete the course. Many of them have been placed in different rural locations across the state without any complaints.
The HC has now decided to scrap the act as it directly conflicts with existing regulations. It was mentioned that Section 10 A of the Indian Medical Council Act of 1956 mentions that the state govt must take permission from the central govt before taking any such actions. And since no such act was passed and did not have permission from the President of India, the Assam Rural Health Regulatory Authority Act of 2004 remains invalid.