Compulsory Service Bonds for Doctors: Upholding Public Health and Individual Rights

In a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of India, the balance between public health and individual rights regarding compulsory service bonds for doctors has been reaffirmed. The judgment upholds the importance of ensuring the well-being of the public while respecting the fundamental rights of individuals. Addressing the complex issues surrounding the obligations of doctors in various states, the Court navigates the intricate web of legal principles to guide the way forward in this crucial matter.


  • Appellants seeking admission to post-graduate courses in Armed Forces Medical College were required to execute a bond to serve in the Armed Forces Medical Services for five years.
  • Similar bond condition was included in the brochure for admission to Post-Graduate Medical Courses for the year 2014-2015.
  • Writ Petitioner the Association of Medical Super Specialty Aspirants filed a petition to quash compulsory bond conditions in super specialty courses in multiple states.
  • All Writ Petitioners executed the obligation bond at the time of admission.
  • High Court questioned the bonds citing various grounds.
  • Petitioners sought the return of original documents without obligatory service.
  • Controversy pertains to compulsory bonds for post-graduate and super specialty courses.
  • A writ petition was filed in 2017 challenging the validity of serving conditions for five years in the Armed Forces Medical Services.
  • Aggrieved Appellants filed SLPs against the High Court’s judgment.
  • The Appellants sought release of original documents without paying Rs.30 Lakhs as per a 2014 Notification.
  • Notifications from the Department of Health and Family Welfare, West Bengal imposing bond conditions were challenged in Calcutta High Court.
  • The Notifications required doctors to work in specified hospitals in West Bengal after completing their education.
  • Different High Courts had varying views on compulsory bonds and service obligations for doctors.
  • The Gujarat High Court considered execution of bonds as coercive and unreasonable.
  • A Division Bench of the Bombay High Court upheld the constitutionality of government resolutions imposing service bonds.
  • The compensation for failure to serve in the State was enhanced to Rs.30 Lakhs.

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  • The Division Bench framed several key issues for consideration.
  • The first issue was whether the State Government had the authority to introduce the bond system through notifications without the need for legislation.
  • The second issue addressed whether the notifications infringed upon the petitioners’ freedom to practice their profession or carry on any trade or business as guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.
  • The third issue questioned whether the petitioners were aware of the bond system before choosing West Bengal for their post-graduate medical studies.

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  • Mr. Huzefa Ahmadi contended that the condition imposed for rendering compulsory service in the Army is violative of Articles 19(1)(g) and 23(1) read with Article 21 of the Constitution. He argued that the compulsory bond is violative of Section 27 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 and barred by Section 14 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963.
  • Mr. Shibashish Misra, representing the State of Orissa, mentioned that all 45 seats in the super Speciality courses are filled based on merit in the All India Counselling.
  • It was further contended that additional eligibility conditions imposed by the State Government are unreasonable and cannot be introduced for All India Quota candidates.
  • Mr. Rakesh Dwivedi, Senior Counsel for the State of West Bengal, argued the positive obligation of the State to uphold the rights conferred by Article 21 of the Constitution in relation to the right to health. He also highlighted the necessity of a balanced academic career and personal incentives for the Appellants with public interest.
  • Mr. Huzefa Ahmadi, in appeals concerning the Army’s compulsory service condition, emphasized the violation of fundamental rights under the Constitution and the prohibition of ‘forced labor’ as per Article 23(1).
  • The argument was made that the Notifications issued by State Governments on compulsory bonds were challenged on grounds of lack of jurisdiction and legislative competence.
  • Overall, the discussion revolved around the imposition of compulsory service bonds, the violation of fundamental rights, the reasonableness of conditions imposed, and the conflict between individual rights and public interest.
  • High demand for super Specialty doctors in the State of Gujarat in departments of Oncology, Cardiology, and Nephrology.
  • Serious shortage of super Specialty doctors in the State of Gujarat.
  • Government colleges in Gujarat charge a fee of Rs. 45,000/- per year for super Speciality courses with a stipend of Rs. 56,826/- for the doctors.
  • Bond system introduced by the Government is in the public interest to address the shortage of super specialists.
  • Tamil Nadu has 334 super Speciality seats in 24 Government medical colleges with nominal fees and significant stipend amounts for doctors.
  • Government spending Rs. 21 Lakhs on each post-graduate student for super Speciality courses.
  • Bond amount reduced to Rs. 50 Lakhs with a reduced period of service required from super specialists to two years instead of ten.
  • Appellants have chosen to avail benefits of admission in government medical colleges and received subsidized education.
  • Service rendered by the Appellants in government hospitals cannot be considered as forced labor.

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  • The State has an obligation to protect human dignity and facilitate its realization.
  • Agreements of a strictly personal nature, such as hiring and service agreements, are not enforced by the courts.
  • Prohibits slavery, involuntary servitude, and forced labor.
  • The right to life includes living with human dignity and accessing basic necessities like nutrition, clothing, shelter, and education.
  • Article 47 mandates the State to improve public health.
  • Article 21 of the Constitution obligates the State to safeguard the right to life of every individual.
  • Reasonable stipend must be paid to doctors.
  • The State must ensure the creation of conditions conducive to good health.
  • Compulsory bonds for doctors in certain states were discussed.
  • The judgment in Rigby v. Connol was referred to regarding personal service contracts.
  • The High Court of Calcutta ruled that compulsory bonds for doctors do not restrain their professional activity.
  • The importance of preserving human life and providing timely medical treatment.
  • The constitutional right to dignity is fundamental.
  • Dignity is central to all guaranteed individual rights under the Constitution.
  • Courts typically do not enforce contracts of a personal nature, like employment contracts.
  • The significance of public health and individual rights in the context of compulsory service bonds for doctors.
  • The State’s obligation to provide health facilities for its citizens.
  • Balancing individual rights with public interest and the primacy of public health.
  • Protection of fundamental rights of deprived sections through compulsory service bonds.
  • The right to life must include human dignity.
  • The primacy of public health in conflicts with private interests.
  • The notion of public interest being synonymous with collective welfare and public institutions.
  • The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was mentioned.
  • Collective welfare informed by the public trust doctrine is crucial.
  • I. Jurisdiction of the State Government: Entry 66 of List I of the 7 Schedule refers to coordination and determination of standards in higher education institutions. Entry 25 of List III deals with education subject to provisions of other entries.
  • II. Violation of Fundamental Rights: Article 21 prohibits the bond system restraining a lawful profession, trade, or business. Violating this is contrary to Sec. 27 of the Indian Contract Act.
  • III. Contract of Personal Service: The judgement may address issues regarding personal service contracts and their implications.
  • IV. Restraint on Profession: The restraint on professions may be discussed, focusing on its legality and implications.
  • State Government has the competence to issue executive orders under Article 162 of the Constitution on matters within the State legislature’s legislative power.
  • The imposed condition on compulsory bonds is related to the professional activity of a doctor post-course completion.
  • Appellants accepted admissions and executed the compulsory bonds without protest.
  • Execution of bonds is a part of a composite package, not a standalone condition.
  • Calcutta High Court’s judgment that the Notifications are not violative of Article 19(1)(g) is upheld.
  • Appellants failed to succeed in challenging the Notifications.
  • State Governments have rigid conditions in compulsory bonds for doctors trained in government institutions
  • Suggests uniform policy by Union of India and Medical Council of India for compulsory service by doctors
  • All doctors bound by conditions in compulsory bonds, as per High Court of Calcutta
  • Conditions of compulsory bonds for admission to post-graduate and super-speciality courses in government medical colleges not in violation of Section 27 of Indian Contract Act, 1872


  • Notification dated 09.10.2014 enhanced the duration to three years and Rs.30 Lakhs
  • Writ Petitions and Appeals were dismissed
  • Further direction sought for returning original mark-sheets, certificates, and other documents retained by State authorities


Case Number: W.P.(C) No.-000376 / 2018

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