The Supreme Court has said that equality does not imply that there can be no classification, as at times, it may be necessary to treat unequal unequally, for equal treatment of persons with unequal circumstances creates an unjust situation.
However, a classification must not be arbitrary. It must be rationally founded on some quality or characteristics which are identified within the class of people, it said.
A bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Surya Kant termed as “erroneous and anti-merit” rules framed by the Bihar government since it granted weightage of experience to only those doctors who worked under its hospitals in the recruitment to the post of general medical officers.
The court directed the state government to rework its merit list within two months on a plea by Dr (Maj) Meeta Sahai, whose work experience at Army Medical Corp Hospital was not considered.
The court pointed out that the Constitution envisaged setting up of hospitals by many different public authorities, including the central and state governments, municipalities and Panchayati raj institutions etc, to cater to the need of poor and needy persons. An apt example is of Army hospitals, so there was little reason to ignore and overlook the experience gained in such hospitals.
This would be irrational to urge that the work experience in any such hospital was different from that in a Bihar government hospital, it said.
It would be constitutionally unjust and would go against the very ethos of our constitutional government setup, if any attempt to discriminate between these hospitals and those by the state government, the bench added.
However, the top court agreed to the contention that Bihar was predominantly poor and thus required doctors having exposure to such a challenging environment as compared to their counterparts in private hospitals.
“Experience in a non-private hospital instils sensitivity in its doctors, making them more adept to understand the ail and agony of poor patients. Such experience will undoubtedly be useful in furthering the object of government hospitals,” the bench said.