……………… Medical education must be taken very seriously and when an expert body certifies that the facilities in a medical college are inadequate, the Courts are not equipped to take a different view in the matter except for very cogent jurisdictional reasons such as mala fides of the Inspection Team, ex facie perversity in the inspection report, jurisdictional error on the part of the MCI etc.
…….. Supreme Court
The Supreme Court while making these observations came down heavily on a medical college based in State of Odisha, Kalinga Institute of Medical Science [KIMS] and imposed a fine of Rs. 5 Crore for playing with career of several students and flouting the standards prescribed under the Regulations.
The Supreme Court was hearing a challenge by Medical Council of India against Judgement of High Court of Odisha granting interim relief to KIMS to admit and further setting aside the Report submitted by an Expert Committee, which inspected the campus and found several deficiencies and recommended that the permission should not be renewed for enhanced seats.
KIMS was initially granted permission to admit students for medical courses. It was desirous to enhance the admission intake and hence approached MCI for permission. As per the procedure, inspection was conducted by MCI Expert team, which found serious deficiencies. On consideration of the Report, MCI recommended to Central Government to deny permission to KIMS to add 50 additional seats.
Accordingly, direction was issued to KIMS not to admit any students in the second batch of MBBS course against the increased intake from 100 to 150 seats. Being aggrieved, KIMS challenged the direction before the High Court. The High Court set aside the direction and directed Central Government to reconsider the case after giving personal hearing. MCI granted personal hearing to KIMS and retained its recommendation. The High Court however, later directed Central Government to grant provisional permission to KIMS to conduct the course for the additional 50 students. Accordingly, Central Government granted provisional permission to KIMS to conduct the MBBS course against the increased intake.
Being aggrieved, MCI filed SLP in Supreme Court. MCI was granted the leave and order of the High Court was stayed. The Court also maintained status quo in the matter and requested High Court hear the pending writ petition expeditiously. High Court later directed MCI to constitute a fresh Inspection Team to inspect KIMS and verify the compliances submitted by KIMS. In fresh inspection conducted pursuant to the HC order, large numbers of deficiencies were again found at KIMS. The Expert Report was examined in detail and minutely by the High Court and the same was set aside by the High Court. The Court later allowed the College to continue with admissions.
The Supreme Court finally heard the matter. On consideration of events leading to SLP, the Court observed that, “Medical education must be taken very seriously and when an expert body certifies that the facilities in a medical college are inadequate, the Courts are not equipped to take a different view in the matter except for very cogent jurisdictional reasons such as mala fides of the Inspection Team, ex facie perversity in the inspection report, jurisdictional error on the part of the MCI etc. Under no circumstance should the High Court examine the report as an appellate body – this is simply not the function of the High Court. In the present case there was no ground made out at law for setting aside the report of the Inspection Team.” The Supreme Court did not approve the approach of High Court, which proceeded to minutely examine the Report of the Expert Committee, functioning as an Appellate Body.
The Supreme Court was also of the opinion that High Court ought to have been more circumspect in directing the admission of students by its order dated 25th September, 2015 and there was no need for the High Court to rush into an area that the MCI feared to tread. It remarked that, “Granting admission to in an educational institution when there is a serious doubt whether admission should at all be granted is not a matter to be taken lightly. First of all the career of a student is involved – what would a student do if his admission is found to be illegal or is quashed? Is it not a huge waste of time for him or her? Is it enough to say that the student will not claim any equity in his or her favour? Is it enough for student to be told that his or her admission is subject to the outcome of a pending litigation? These are all questions that arise and for which there is no easy answer. Generally speaking, it is better to err on the side of caution and deny admission to a student rather than have the sword of Damocles hanging over him or her. There would at least be some certainty.”
On the issue of future of students, who have already been admitted, the Supreme Court though protected the admission of the students, who have already been admitted under the Interim Order but blamed KIMS squarely for the same and hence imposed an exemplary fine of Rs. 5 Crore on KIMS for jeopardizing the career of students and for playing with the future of its students and the mess that it has created for them. The Court felt that admitting students despite rejection and seeking judicial intervention to admit students was certainly not with a charitable motive. The Court also remarked that an institution should have some responsibility towards the welfare of the students and felt that it would have been far more appropriate for KIMS to have refrained from giving admission to 50 additional students rather than being instrumental in jeopardizing their career.
The Court additionally asked MCI to prepare in consultation with the Central Government prepare a Standard Operating Procedure for conducting an inspection of Medical Colleges. It also directed that to introduce transparency and accountability in the medical colleges, the report or assessment of the Inspection Team should be put up on the website of the concerned medical college as also on the website of the MCI so that potential students are aware of what is likely to be in store for them. Similarly, the decision of the Central Government on the report should be put up on the website of the concerned medical college as also on the website of the MCI.
The last fortnight at Supreme Court has all been about Medical Education. Right from Constitution of an Oversight Committee to monitor the functioning of MCI, to conducting the entrance test and now direction to prepare SoP for conducting Inspection, all have been discussed and settled.
The Central Government and MCI should rise up to the occasion and set it right to reinstate confidence in their governance of medical education in the Country.
However, I am on a different point, it is right that Courts should not generally interfere with the Reports of the Expert Committee, but there are several instances, where the Regulator itself and the Nodal Ministry interferes with the Report Expert Committee and upsets them acting on their own discretion. What about such situations … How is the interest of Institutions then safeguarded … I wish Court should have dealt with this aspect also.
Ravi Bhardwaj | firstname.lastname@example.org
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