The Supreme Court has set aside the verdict of Bombay High Court and explained that the lower court’s interpretation of the law regarding fixing minimum standards for re-inspection of medical colleges is incorrect and misinformed. In its judgment on June 1, 2018, the top court remarked: “the interpretation of Regulation 8(3)(1) (a) by the High Court is patently erroneous.”
Facts of the case
Vedantaa Institute of Academic Excellence was given permission by the Central government to start a Medical College under Section 10A of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956. A batch of 150 students was admitted for the academic year 2017-2018 and Vedantaa Institute applied to Medical Council of India (MCI) for inspection for the permission of granting first renewal for admission of students for the academic year 2018-2019. The said inspection carried out on 25.09.2017 and 26.09.2017 when the Council found there were a severe deficiency of facilities, lack of basic infrastructure and inadequate management.
MCI then recommended the Government to invoke Regulation 8(3)(1) (a) of the Establishment of Medical College Regulations, 1999 and disapprove the application of Vedantaa Institute of Medical Sciences. Vedantaa Institute moved to Bombay High Court against the recommendations of Medical Council of India (MCI) claiming that the inspection was not properly done and Regulation 8(3)(1) (a) is not applicable for the Vedantaa Institute of Medical Sciences since they are applying for their first renewal only. Bombay High Court accepted the contention of the Vedantaa Institute of Medical Sciences and directed MCI to re-inspect the Institute recommending that Vedantaa Institute is given a chance to fix its problems.
Medical Council of India (MCI) filed an appeal with the Apex Court against the High Court’s order through Senior Counsel Vikas Singh who denied there was any merit to the objections raised by Vedantaa Institute. A Division Bench comprising of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Mohan M. Shantanagoudar presided over the case and found that there was a gross misinterpretation of the law by the lower court in this case. The Court agreed with the appellant’s Advocate and observed: “there is no ambiguity in the language of the Regulation 8(3)(1) (a), as it covers colleges up to second renewal.”
The Apex Court stated “Regulation 8(3)(1) (a) is complementary to Section 10A of the Act. Fixing minimum standards which have to be fulfilled for the purpose of enabling a medical College to seek fresh inspection would not be contrary to the scheme of Section 10A. In fact, Regulation 8(3)(1) provides that an opportunity shall be given to the Medical College to rectify the defects. But, the proviso contemplates that certain minimum standards are to be satisfied i.e. there should not be the deficiency of teaching faculty and/or residents more than 30 per cent and/or bed occupancy 12 should not be less than 50 per cent. This prescription of standards for availing an opportunity to seek re-inspection is not ultra vires either the Regulation or Section 10A of the Act.”
Impact of the judgment
The Supreme Court in its judgment has emphatically denounced that it is ill-advised to try to “fix” the provisions of Regulation 8(3)(1) (a) as that would set a dangerous precedent. The Apex Court relying on its earlier judgment in Medical Council of India v. Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) & Ors. (2016) 11 SCC 530 reiterated that “any leniency shown by this Court in providing an opportunity to such Institutions to rectify the defects will have a cascading effect in the succeeding years and would result in Colleges continuing to function with deficiencies as well as producing half-baked and poor quality doctors.”
The Supreme Court placed their reliance on the Medical Council of India’s expertise stating “when an expert body certifies that the facilities in a medical college are inadequate, it is not for the courts to interfere with the assessment of the MCI, except for very cogent jurisdictional reasons such as mala fides of the inspection team, ex facie perversity in the inspection, jurisdictional error on the part of the MCI etc.”