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Supreme Court says no absolute right for individuals to set up dental or medical colleges

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The Supreme Court of India has held that there is no absolute right for individuals or institutions to set up dental or medical colleges, these rights are subject to reasonable regulations imposed by the Centre to ensure proper academic standards are maintained.

A Division Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai upheld the validity of Regulation 6(2)(h) of the Dental Council of India (Establishment of New Dental Colleges, Opening of New or Higher Course of Studies or Training and Increase of Admission Capacity in Dental Colleges) Regulations, 2006, hence setting aside the judgement of Rajasthan High Court, which had struck it down.

“The amended Regulation cannot be said to be one, which is manifestly arbitrary, so as to permit the Court to interfere with it. On the contrary, we find that the amended Regulation 6(2)(h) has a direct nexus with the object to be achieved, i.e., providing adequate teaching and training facilities to the students. The Division Bench of the High Court has erred in substituting its wisdom with that of the rulemaking body, which is an expert body. We are, therefore, of the considered view that it was not permissible for the Division Bench of the High Court to enter into an area of experts and hold that the unamended provisions ought to have been preferred over the amended provisions,” reads the judgement.

Unamended Regulation 6(2)(h) allowed interested person intending to open a dental college is eligible to apply if he/she/it owned and managed a general hospital of not less than 100 beds. However, the amendment made mandatory for an applicant to attach its proposed dental college with the government or private medical college, approved or recognised by the Medical Council of India; which is located at a distance of 10km by road from the proposed dental college. The afore-mentioned distance of 10km has now been increased to 30km, by an amendment dated July 5, 2017.

Advocate Gaurav Sharma appearing on the behalf of DCI submitted that the Dentist Act, 1948 empowers the Council to make rules for various aspects of Dental Education, including minimum standards. He further submitted that the Regulation was meant to improve teaching facilities to the students.

Justice Gavai, who has authored the judgment, placed reliance on 11-judge bench ruling of 2002 in the T.M.A. Pai Foundation and others vs. State of Karnataka and others case wherein it was held that the right to establish an educational institution are not absolute.

“However, such regulatory measures must, in general, be to ensure the maintenance of proper academic standards, atmosphere and infrastructure and the prevention of maladministration. The impugned notification, undoubtedly, is made in order to ensure the maintenance of proper academic standards and infrastructure and as such, the judgment of the Constitution bench of this court in the case of T.M.A. Pai Foundation and others (supra),” Justice Gavai said.

Biyani Shikshan Samiti had challenged the Regulation before the Rajasthan High Court, upon the rejection to open a Dental College due to the impugned notice. The Rajasthan High Court had struck down the impugned notification. The Dental Council of India had approached the Apex Court challenging the same. 

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