Above: The PK Das Medical College, Palakkad, one of the medical colleges whose admission process was annulled by the SC
For the second time in as many months, the top court has dealt a severe blow to the greedy managements of medical institutions in Kerala
By NV Ravindranathan Nair in Thiruvananthapuram
While sending a strong message to the mushrooming private medical colleges in Kerala that it would not tolerate irregularities in admissions and the education imparted, the Supreme Court cancelled the admission process that had been completed in four self-financing private colleges. It also came down heavily on unscrupulous managements that look at admissions to medical colleges as a quick and surefire way to amass money while churning out quacks.
For the 550 students of the DM Medical College, Wayanad, PK Das Medical College, Palakkad, SR Medical College, Varkala, and Al-Azhar Medical College, Thodupuzha, the future has never looked bleaker.
The apex court’s order came on a plea by the Medical Council of India (MCI) that challenged an order of the Kerala High Court which had granted approval for admissions to these colleges even when they did not follow the norms. The MCI contended that they had failed to meet the necessary guidelines in providing sufficient infrastructure, an argument which the apex court upheld.
Earlier, the top court had on September 5 stayed the Kerala High court order granting affiliation to these colleges.
The colleges told the Court that they had almost filled the seats through the mop-up counselling and requested that the students be allowed to continue their studies. However, a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran observed that the admissions of the students to these colleges be terminated. Making strong observations against the trend of medical colleges not following any norms or meeting specifications, the Court in its judgment said that if substandard medical education is allowed, it would pose a threat to the right to life. “Allowing medical colleges which have no infrastructure to provide quality education would be against the interest of the society,” it said.
The Supreme Court also strongly criticised the High Court for giving a general suggestion that if the medical colleges had any inadequacies or were found wanting in any manner, they should be given the opportunity to overcome it. The apex court pointed out that giving such directions without conducting an inspection would be illegal. The Court said that ordering an inspection and at the same time allowing the government and MCI to have a free hand to take a decision on finding problems would endanger the future of students.
Meanwhile, Commissioner of Entrance Examinations PK Sudheer Babu said steps would be taken to refund the fees remitted by students whose admissions were cancelled by the Supreme Court. He said the list was ready and the refund would be made in November. “Cheques for the amount paid would be sent to their postal address or the amount would be transferred through account transfer,” he clarified.
Earlier, the MCI had denied permission to these colleges to make admissions on the ground that they had failed to fulfil the necessary norms. However, the colleges went ahead with admissions after securing a favourable verdict from the High Court. Following this, the MCI moved the Supreme Court. During the trial, the apex court also observed that the students may lose their seats, while staying the admissions to the colleges.
“As the admission process is complete and the academic session has already begun, the students have few options. They had repeatedly been asked to appear for counselling when admissions to other medical courses like Ayurveda were being held. But none of them turned up. They were under the impression that the managements would get a favourable order from the apex court,” said a parent of a student. Managements will now have to return the fees to the students and the latter will have to wait for the next entrance examination.
The state government has few options before it as earlier legislation to save the students of Kannur and Karuna medical colleges, similarly hit by promulgating an ordinance, was quashed by the Supreme Court. Ironically, that ordinance was promulgated by the state governor, P Sathasivam, a former chief justice of the Supreme Court. The apex court, while quashing the bill on September 5, had said that the ordinance was unconstitutional.
On March 22 last year, the Supreme Court had cancelled the admission of 180 students in these two colleges, citing irregularities in the admission procedure. The Kerala government then promulgated the ordinance to regularise the admissions. The assembly had subsequently passed a bill in April this year to bypass the apex court order. “The government tried to interfere in the discretion of courts. The Ordinance was brought to protect students who obtained MBBS seats through irregular means,” the Supreme Court observed while quashing the ordinance.
The government’s claim was that it took a favourable stand towards admissions, made without the knowledge of the admission supervision committee, for the sake of students. But from the High Court to the Supreme Court, verdicts were delivered against the Kannur and Karuna medical colleges that granted admission to students against rules.
The LDF government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had earlier passed the Kerala Professional Colleges (Regularisation of Admission in Medical Colleges) Bill, 2018, to regularise the admissions to self-financing medical colleges in 2016-17. It may be noted that when the Bill was introduced in the assembly, the Opposition UDF also had joined the LDF in unanimously passing it as both the ruling and opposition fronts were acting to serve the interest of these two medical colleges.
The lone voice of protest belonged to Congress MLA VT Balaram who raised the question of morality and illegality in bypassing the apex court verdict through a piece of legislation only to protect the merchandising of medical education.
In an earlier order, the Supreme Court had said that the ordinance blatantly seeks to nullify the binding effect of the order passed by it. “Prima facie it was not open to declare this court’s order as void or ineffective as was sought to be done by way of ordinance,” the Court had then said.
In trying to safeguard the interests of the avaricious managements of private medical colleges, the state government has virtually played with the lives of 730 young men and women.