New Delhi: The Delhi High court, through an appellate judgement was recently seen giving relief to a Cardiology professor who was debarred by the Medical Council Of India (MCI) ethics committee from taking any teaching/administrative post at any medical college for a period of five years on the grounds that the MCI Ethics Committee found that he was working in more than one medical college in the same academic session.
The facts of the case are as follows
The said doctor was appointed as Professor and Head of Department of Cardiology in Mamta Medical College, Khammam, Andhra Pradesh (MMC) on 01.02.2013. According to him, due to certain differences with the administration, he had left the service of MMC on 12.05.2014 and sent an e-mail to the Chairperson of MMC on 14.05.2014 tendering his resignation effective from the said date. He had joined National Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, NIMS University, Jaipur on 14.05.2014 itself ( submitting appointment and joining letter as proof)
MCI sought clarification from MMC and NIMS regarding the doctor’s being shown as working in two different institutions in the same academic session. Upon being put to notice, the doctor sent a reply to the MCI on 19.05.2014 along-with a copy of his resignation letter(which he had sent to MMC). He maintained that MMC had accepted his resignation and had handed over the charge of Head of Department of Cardiology to one Dr Vinod Kumar and that he was paid salary upto 12.05.2014 only. The doctor also stated that according to the biometric records in MMC, he had last entered the said premises on 12.05.2014.
The said doctor had appeared before MCI’s Ethics Committee and on the same day, the Ethics Committee also
recorded the statement of the Principal of MMC. The Principal of MMC deposed before MCI’s Ethics Committee that the respondent doctor had gone to MMC on 12.05.2014 and not thereafter and that this was reflected from the biometric record and furthermore, that as he had resigned from his post on 14.05.2014 no response to the resignation letter could be sent as MMC did not have his current address.
The doctor was directed by MCI to submit copy of a cable TV bills/telephone bill or bank statement in support of his residential/quarter address at the Campus of MMC but first respondent had failed to do so. Upon taking a seriousview, the Ethics Committee decided to debar the respondent/doctor from undertaking any post of an administrative nature/teaching post of similar nature in any university and/or a medical college for a period of five years.
The doctor challenged the order before a single bench of the Delhi High Court.
MCI’s stand -in the writ petition was that there is no document to show that the doctor was relieved from service by MMC and in the absence of a relieving letter from MMC, the respondent/doctor could not take up service in NIMS.
After taking note of the factual position and the respective stands taken by both the sides the learned Single Judge, in the impugned order,the single bench concluded that action was taken by MCI on the presumption that the doctor was simultaneously employed by two colleges, but what had emerged from the record is that he first resigned from MMC and thereafter, had joined NIMS, though on the same date.
The learned Single Judge held that there is no evidence on record establishing that the first respondent was employed simultaneously by two institutes and that merely the absence of a relieving letter from MMC did not mean that the resignation of the doctor was not accepted or he was not relieved from service. It is also noted in the impugned order that the MCI had not produced any regulation to show that an employee has to await a relieving order from the previous employer prior to joining service in another institute.
The single bench Judge hence quashed the MCI’s order debarring the respondent/doctor for five years. The council then challenged the said judgement in an appeal.
During the appeal, counsel for MCI stated that the doctor deliberately did not produce a copy of cable TV/telephone bill as proof of his stay at his residential address in Campus of MMC till 12.05.2014 and this lapse gives rise to a reasonable inference that he was working in two medical colleges simultaneously. It was submitted by MCI that in view of Regulation 8.1 of Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct,Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002, the disciplinary action taken against the respondent/doctor was justified. The counsel also pointed out that NIMS sent the appointment letter of the doctor to his campus address at MMC.
This court after considering the respective submissions of both the sides, upheld the order of the single judge observing
The mere circumstance that the appointment letter was sent by NIMS to the respondent/doctor at his previous address i.e. of MMC and the joining letter too showed his current address as of Mohali, Punjab, ipso facto could not justify a conclusion that something was amiss or that the respondent/doctor was practicing deceit. The same reference number (mentioned on the appointment letter and joining letter) is an aspect on which MCI could have sought clarification from NIMS and not from the respondent/doctor. The appellant sought no such clarification. Therefore, this circumstance cannot be used against the respondent/doctor. It is quite evident from the record that this is not a case where the respondent/doctor was found to be simultaneously working in two medical colleges, as a result of any inspection or based on any oral testimony, or even documents available on the same dates, in both institutions. Apparently, the respondent/doctor had first resigned from MMC and thereafter had joined NIMS. It is a matter of coincidence that the resignation as well as the joining letter is of the same date, but that by itself would not justify any disciplinary action against him. The evidence of the Principal of MMC shows that acceptance of the resignation letter could not be sent for want of the respondent/doctor’s current address, meaning thereby, the relieving letter could not be issued.
The court observed that this was not such a case, where the faculty was actually caught practicing at two places
Non-production of cable TV/telephone bills cannot justify the impugned debarment either as no prudent person is expected to preserve such bills for months together, after leaving the medical college.
Quashing the MCI order, the court further observed
It must be remembered that the MCI’s Ethics Committee is a domestic tribunal, whose decisions, when accepted lead to adverse civil consequences, impinging on an individual doctor’s ability to practice his profession- and likely to affect her or his livelihood. Adverse findings also impact the reputation, integrity and professional ability of the individual. Therefore, due care is to be adopted in the fact-finding and quasi-judicial adjudicatory processes, that a conjectural “may have done it” does not result in a “must have done it”.