Definition of 'Degree in Medicine' includes Siddha, BDS, says Madras HC

MADURAI: The Madras High Court has given a big boost to Siddha medical system by ruling that the phrase 'Degree in Medicine' also refers to Degree in Siddha and Dentistry.

The Court rejected the Tamil Nadu Government's argument that only MBBS would qualify as 'modern scientific medicine' and, as such, the phrase 'Degree in Medicine' can refer only to MBBS. The Court, however, took the position that the expression 'Degree in Medicine' should be understood expansively to include BDS and Siddha streams as well.

The question came up for consideration before Justice G.R. Swaminathan, when a batch of BDS and Siddha students moved the court after the Medical Services Recruitment Board did not consider them for appointment as Food Safety Officers, for which the basic qualification was mandated as 'Degree in Medicine'. They were to be recruited on a temporary basis in the Tamil Nadu Food Safety and Drug Administration Department after a written test.

Though they wrote the written examination on December 20, 2022, they were not selected as they were graduates in BDS and Siddha medicine.The State Government said the Bachelor's Degree in Medicine would refer only to modern scientific medicine in all its branches, including surgery and obstetrics. As such, the government contended, it referred only to MBBS and not other systems of medicine such as Siddha. 

Rejecting the contention, and holding that the students were entitled to be considered for the posts, Justice Swaminathan said medical degrees awarded by a recognised university would fall within the sweep of Rule 2.1.3 of Food Safety and Standard Rules, 2011. 

"I take judicial notice of the fact that the department of Siddha is undertaking research. During Covid crisis, the role played by the Siddha doctors cannot be lost sight of. When dengue struck us, the Government itself promoted 'Nilavembu Kashayam'. Disqualifying a Siddha degree-holder in the selection process would be tantamount to branding Siddha system as un-modern," observed Justice Swaminathan.

Since Siddha is a functioning system and there are Siddha practitioners, it too deserves to be called modern, reasoned the judge, pointing out that the State Government itself was running Siddha medical colleges, which are duly recognised. He also underscored the fact that clearing NEET is common for MBBS, BDS and Siddha.

Elaborating on the relevance of Siddha, the judge said: "Siddha system of medicine is unique to Tamil Nadu. It is part of Tamil culture. Earlier, every temple in Tamil Nadu used to have a functioning Siddha dispensary attached to it. This court does not know if that is still the current position."

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