The Court of Appeal yesterday ordered the Attorney General to present to the court the Cabinet paper related to the decision taken by the Health Ministry to extend the service period of medical specialists in public service up to the age of 63.
This order was made after considering the fact that the Secretary of the Ministry of Health has issued a circular stating that the decision regarding the retiring age of the medical specialists will be effective only until December 31, 2024.
He made this order when 176 doctors filed writ petitions against the Cabinet’s decision to make medical specialists retire at the age of 60.
The petition was called before the Court of Appeals Chairman Justice Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne and Justice M.C.B.S. Morais. The President’s Counsels appearing for the petitioners pointed out to the court that the Secretary of the Ministry of Health had previously submitted an affidavit to the Court promising to extend the retirement age of doctors to 63 years. It was pointed out that he had later issued a circular contrary to that promise.
According to the circular, the decision to extend the retirement age of doctors to 63 years will be valid only until December 31, 2023. The lawyers pointed out that this circular had been issued without considering the promise given before the Court.
Medhaka Fernando, the State Counsel who appeared on behalf of the Attorney General, stated that the Secretary of the Ministry of Health had promised through an affidavit that the extension of the retirement age of doctors to 63 years would be done subject to Cabinet approval.
The State Counsel stated that the Cabinet has decided to make the retirement age of 63 effective only until December 31, 2024.
He said that this circular had been issued according to the Cabinet decision.
Sanjeewa Jayawardena, the President’s Counsel who appeared for the petitioners, stated that the relevant Cabinet paper was presented without any regard to the case or the promises in the Court.
He said that due to the absence of doctors, the patients are greatly affected and by making such decisions without any concern for the public, the health authorities are playing with the lives of the patients.
He pointed out that the related Cabinet decision had not been submitted to the Court.
The bench inquired as to the reasons why the relevant Cabinet decisions could not be taken as per the promise given to the Court. The State Counsel said that it was difficult to give an answer as the Additional Solicitor General representing the respondent party was not present in the Court at this time.
The bench noted that it is essential for the Additional Solicitor General to appear before the court to present those facts.
The judges added that he should appear before the Court on the next court date and explain the relevant Cabinet decision and the matters related to the said decision.
The President of the Court of Appeal said that if such an explanation is not submitted, the Minister of Health would be issued a notice and personally summoned before the court to present the facts.
Accordingly, it was decided to recall this petition on the 27th. This petition was filed by a group of doctors specializing in various medical fields including heart disease, and neurology.