Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Calcutta High Court dismisses PIL seeking elections to West Bengal Medical Council

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The Calcutta High Court has dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed seeking direction to the West Bengal government to take necessary steps to selected / reselected Ad hoc Council Members in accordance with Section 5 of the West Bengal Medical Council (Temporary Suppression) Act, 1985 .

The PIL, filed by a doctor, raised the point that West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) was being run by an Ad hoc Committee without holding due elections, therefore, earlier PIL being WP 8971(W) of 2012 was filed wherein the order dated January 16, 2013 was passed directing to hold the election.

According to the petitioner, WBMC members elected in 2018 continued to run the Medical Council without holding any election even after expiry of the 5-year term, therefore, another petition being WPO 382 of 2018 (renumbered later as WPA 8140 of 2022) was filed wherein Single Judge has passed the order dated 29th of June, 2022 dissolving the WBMC and directing appointment of Ad hoc Council for the purpose of conducting elections of the Council and to carry out the essential functions. The petitioner is aggrieved with the constitution of the Ad hoc Committee.

Submission of the petitioner-in-person is that in terms of Section 5 of the Act of 1985, as many as 20 members are required in the Ad hoc Committee but vide notification dated 28th of July, 2022, Ad hoc Committee of 8 members has been formed and that the Members of the Ad hoc Committee should not be allowed to contest the election. A grievance has been raised against the member no. 1 and 2 of the Ad hoc Committee.

The Advocate General opposing the petition has pointed out that Section 5 of the Act of 1985 has subsequently been amended and that Members of the Committee have not been made a party and once the election process commences, interference of the Court is not required.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj after hearing the counsel for the parties and perused the record noted that the petitioner is placed reliance upon Section 5 of the West Bengal Medical Council (Temporary Suppression) Act, 1985 but Advocate General has produced the notification dated 17th of May, 2012 containing the West Bengal Medical Council (Temporary Suppression) (Amendment) Act, 2012.

On perusal the Court noted that the principal Section 5 of the Act of 1985 has been omitted and the new Section 5A has been inserted providing for reconstitution of the Ad hoc Council consisting of not more than 10 persons as its members. Hence, very basis of challenge raised in the writ petition by the petitioner has been wiped off by the subsequent amendment.

That apart, nothing has been pointed out by the petitioner to show as to why the members of the Ad hoc Committee should not be permitted to contest the election if they fulfill the eligibility conditions prescribed in Section 6 of the Bengal Medical Act, 1914 , the bench observed.

It is also noted by the Court that the petitioner has produced the newspaper cutting disclosing that the elections to the Medical Council have already been notified and the nominations are to be submitted between September 2, 2022 to September 6, 2022 and sending of the voting papers will start from September 19, 2022 and last date of receipt of ballot papers in the Council’s Office is October 18, 2022 and scrutiny and counting will be on October 19, 2022.

The High Court made reliance on the case of the Supreme Court in the matter of Supreme Court Bar Association and Others vs. B.D. Kaushik reported in (2011) 13 SCC 774, in which the Supreme Court while considering the issue of interim injunction against the elections of SCBA has held that once the election process has started, Court should not ordinarily interfere therewith by granting injunction as the same has very wide repercussions.

The Court further cited, “In the matter of Shaji K. Joseph vs. V. Vishwanath and Others reported in (2016) 4 SCC 429, Hon’ble Supreme Court while considering the issue of election of the Member of Dental Council of India, has opined that whenever the process of selection starts, normally the Court should not interfere with the process of election for simple reason that if process of election is interfered with by the Courts, possibly no election would be completed without the Court’s order.”

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