The Supreme Court today rejected a plea alleging that the apex court-appointed oversight panel headed by former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha had overshot MCI and Health Ministry’s disapprovals and allowed several medical colleges to admit students.
A bench comprising Justices AR Dave and L Nageswara Rao trashed the contention that the panel had gone beyond its mandate of monitoring the work of Medical Council of India (MCI) and given its nod to over 100 medical colleges to start admissions without assessing their facilities.
The apex court asked Anand Rai, a doctor who had filed the PIL, to give a representation to Justice Lodha panel instead.
Rai, who claims to be a whistle blower in the Vyapam scam, today had a tough time in the packed courtroom when the bench quizzed him to ascertain his bonafide as the petitioner.
“Don’t get emotional. We just want to verify certain things,” the bench said when Rai broke down in the courtroom.
The bench, after perusing the plea on the last date of hearing, told Rai’s counsel it wanted to ask some questions.
Senior advocate Parag Tripathi, appearing for Rai, referred to the role of his client in taking up causes of public interest including the Vyapam scam, and said he was guided by the interest to ensure quality medical education.
“My learned Brother (Justice Rao) wants to know something from Mr Rai,” Justice Dave said.
As the lawyer continued, the bench interneved saying “we just wanted to know the interest of the petitioner if you (lawyer) can allow him (Rai) to come forward and answer. If he can tell us something directly, then I don’t understand what is the harm.”
The bench then asked him whether Rai knew about the directions passed by the oversight panel in one of its orders.
Rai, in his PIL, has accused the three-member oversight committee of over-stepping its given job of monitoring the work of Medical Council of India.
Earlier, a Constitution Bench had invoked extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution while ordering the setting up of the three-member oversight panel to oversee the functioning of the MCI for at least a year.
The verdict had endorsed a Parliamentary Standing Committee report that medical education and profession in the country was at its “lowest ebb” and suffering from “total system failure” due to corruption.
Besides former CJI Lodha, the panel comprised Professor Shiv Sareen (Director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences) and former CAG Vinod Rai.
The plea alleged that the panel had overshot MCI and the Health Ministry’s disapproval of hundreds of applications made by medical colleges without conducting any “fresh” inspection or assessment.
It claimed that the panel, in August, granted recognition and allowed colleges to increase student intake and even extended the time schedule for colleges to remove deficiencies based on which MCI had recommended disapproval of their applications.
“The impugned decisions of Respondent No 3 (Lodha Committee) have the effect of compromising the standards in medical education and training in India and shall have an adverse influence on the career interests of students undertaking the undergraduate and post-graduate courses in the field of health and medicine,” it said.
The petition said MCI had processed several proposals from medical colleges – varying from establishment of new medical colleges to renewal of permissions to increase in seats to grant of recognition to medicine courses for 2016-17.
Of this around 150 proposals for new undergraduate courses and 118 for super-specialty courses for 2016-17 were disapproved by the ministry on the recommendations of MCI after independent verifications had found several deficiencies in the colleges.
The petition said the Committee, on August 12 and 13, approved a “majority” of applications by medical colleges seeking renewal of permission for 2016-17, grant of recognition for undergraduate courses and increase in intake for 2016-17.