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‘Right to Life’ also guarantees medical reimbursement: Gujarat High Court

The Gujarat High Court on 2nd August 2022 directed the State to reimburse the medical expenditures incurred by a retired primary school teacher (‘Petitioner’) for pacemaker implantation, stating that medical reimbursement is a right guaranteed as a right to life, through the single bench of Justice Biren Vaishnav in the case of Ushaben Dayashankar Shukla vs State of Gujarat (Special Civil Application No. 17320 of 2021).

 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

Through the present petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, a retired teacher prayed for quashing and setting aside the communications dated 18.09.2020 and 5.10.2020 issued by the respondents which refused to reimburse the medical expenditure incurred by the petitioner of Rs.4,17,385/-.

The Petitioner had had a pacemaker implanted at CIMS Hospital. However, the District Primary Education Officer refused reimbursement, stating that there was no reimbursement policy for teachers working in Grant-in-Aid Primary Schools. The Petitioner contended that the Respondent’s refusal to pay for medical expenses was unconstitutional since the Petitioner was a retired employee receiving a state pension. Therefore, she was a retired government employee under the Gujarat Civil Services (Medical Treatment) Rules, 2015.  Furthermore, the State could not discriminate between primary and secondary teachers getting pensions, according to the Division Bench of this Court.

JUDGEMENT:

The High Court held that aid could not be rejected on this basis, regardless of the Petitioner’s position as a primary teacher at a grant-in-aid school. The High Court relied on a Division Bench order in LPA No. 32/1998, which stated that the employment of teachers, whether in Primary Schools or Colleges/Higher Secondary Schools/Secondary Schools, had no connection with the necessity and object of payment of the medical allowance. The need for medical support is fundamental, as stated in Articles 14 and 16 of the Indian Constitution.

Furthermore, the High Court determined that the State had reimbursed the Petitioner when she had undergone a similar procedure at a different hospital in 2007. So because State had not denied this fact, it could not argue that primary school teachers were not covered by the medical reimbursement policy.

The bench further relied on a Supreme Court judgement, the State of Punjab vs Ram Lubhaya Bagga [(1998) 4 SCC 117] wherein, it was affirmed that medical reimbursement is a right guaranteed as a right to life. The Supreme Court emphasised in the decision that maintaining citizens’ health should be a top priority for a Welfare State since it will help the State achieve its social, political, and economic goals.

Accordingly, the petition was allowed.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NIDHI KUMAR

 

 

Read the full judgement.

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