The Supreme Court on January 24 declared Assam Rural Health Regulatory Authority Act, 2004, null and void, observing that Assam legislature not having the legislative competence to enact the law.
A bench of Justice BR Gavai and Justice BV Nagarathna said that the state legislature has no legislative competence to enact a law in respect of modern medicine or allopathic medicine contrary to the said standards that have been determined by the central law.
“The state legislature has no legislative competence to enact a law which is in conflict with the law setting the standards of medical education in the context of modern medicine or allopathic medicine, which has been determined by parliamentary legislation as well as the rules,” the top court said.
“Hence, in view of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and the Rules and Regulations made thereunder, the Assam act, namely, the Assam Rural Health Regulatory Authority Act, 2004, is declared to be null and void,” the SC said.
The court was hearing an appeal whereby the appellants have assailed the legality and correctness of the order dated October 30, 2014, passed by the division bench of the Gauhati high court whereby the high court by allowing the writ petition struck down the Assam Rural Health Regulatory Authority Act, 2004, which was enacted by the Assam state legislature.
On September 18, 2004, the Assam legislature enacted the Assam act to provide for the establishment of a regulatory authority in the state of Assam to register the diploma holders in medicine and rural health care (DMRHC), to regulate their practice in medicine in rural areas and to regulate the opening of medical institutions to impart education and training for the course of diploma in medicine and rural health care.
On June 23, 2005, the director, medical education, state of Assam, published an advertisement in a local newspaper inviting applications from eligible candidates seeking admissions in the three-year course of diploma in medicine and rural health care in the medical institute, Jorhat, for the session starting in the year 2005.
The Indian Medical Association, Assam state branch filed a writ petition before the Gauhati high court, assailing the validity of the Assam act and the advertisement.
The high court had struck down the Assam act.
Aggrieved by the judgment, certain persons who were admitted in the first year of the three-year diploma course in medicine and rural health care have preferred the present appeals.
Consequent to the striking down of the Assam act, the Assam legislature passed the Assam Community Professional (Registration and Competency) Act, 2015 with a view to removing the basis of the judgment passed by the division bench of the Gauhati high court in the writ petition and in an attempt to restore the position of the diploma holders in medicine and to give them continuity in service.
The top court noted that a state legislature which passes a law in respect of allopathic medicine or modern medicine would be subject to the provisions of the IMC Act, 1956 and the rules and regulations made thereunder.
This would imply that no state legislature has the legislative competence to pass any law which would be contradictory to or would be in direct conflict with the IMC Act, 1956 and the rules and regulations made thereunder, the top court said, adding further that the standard in medical education insofar as modern medicine or allopathy is concerned, having been set by the IMC Act, 1956 and the rules and regulations made thereunder or by any subsequent Act in that regard, such as the Medical Council of India Act, 2019.
The top court held that decision of the Gauhati high court holding that the Assam act to be null and void, is just and proper.
“Consequently, the subsequent legislation, namely, the Assam Act of 2015 i.e., the Assam Community Professionals (Registration and Competency) Act, 2015, enacted pursuant to the judgment of the Gauhati high court, is a valid piece of legislation as it has removed the basis of the impugned judgment passed by the Gauhati high court. The 2015 act is also not in conflict with the IMC, Act, 1956. This is because the IMC, Act, 1956 does not deal with community health professionals who would practice as allopathic practitioners in the manner as they were permitted to practice under the Assam act, in rural areas of the state of Assam,” the top court observed.
“Hence, by separate legislation, the community health professionals have been permitted to practice as such professionals. The said legislation of 2015 is not in conflict with IMC, Act, 1956 and the rules and regulations made thereunder. Hence, the act of 2015 is not hit by Entry 66 of List I of the Constitution and is within the legislative competence of the state legislature under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution,” the top court said.