Since the petitioners are qualified to be professors, there is no reason why they are not qualified or eligible to discharge the duties of the office of the HoD – HC
Chandigarh: In a major relief to Msc degree holders and degree holders in pre and para clinical holders working at various medical colleges in the country the Punjab and Haryana High Court has recently ruled that non-MBBS qualified professor cannot be denied the designation of Head of the Departments (HoDs) in medical institutes.
The judgment came in response to the petition drafted by two professors of Government Medical College and Hospital (GMC), Chandigarh, who were removed from the post of HoD in 2015.
Professor CS Gautam (Msc Pharmacology and PhD from PGI Chandigarh) and another petitioner (Msc Anatomy from GMC Amritsar and PhD from PGI) were the HoDs of the Pharmacology and Anatomy departments at the GMC, Chandigarh, since January 2008 and September 2010 and were abruptly sacked in February 2015.
The controversy sparked when the executive committee Medical Council of India (MCI) considered a Council Assessors’ report before examining that the HoDs of pre and para clinical departments were medical degree holders or not.
The 1998 regulations, laid down by the Medical Council of India surfaced that clause 2 of schedule I mentioned that the department of Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Pharmacology and Microbiology, non-medical teachers may be appointed to the extent of 30 percent of the total posts in the department. However, the HoDs of pre and para clinical subjects are required to possess recognised basic university degree qualification — MBBS or equivalent qualification.
It was pointed out that no separate academic qualification has been prescribed for appointment of the HoD in a particular subject in the two tables of the regulations where the requirements of academic qualifications, teaching and research experience are concerned.
However, challenging their removal as well as the Clause 2 of Schedule 1 of the TEQ regulations, the two moved the court. The case of the petitioners, in a nutshell, was that there was violation of principles of natural justice. The order dated 19.02.2015 is unreasonable and irrational. Clause 2 of Schedule I of the 1998 Regulations is unconstitutional. The petitioners had legitimate expectation to continue to discharge the duties of the office of the Head of Department. No reasons have been assigned while relieving the petitioners from the office of the Head of the Department.
The Medical Council of India (MCI) stated that the two petitioners were not holding the MBBS degree. They owned MSc and then acquired PhD and were appointed professors on the basis of qualifications prescribed in the table in the Minimum Qualifications for Teachers in Medical Institutions Regulations, 1998. However, a clause in the regulation prescribed qualification of MBBS or equivalent for designation as the HoD. The judgment regarding the case came four years after the petition was drafted. Having said that MCI agreed that this was against the principal of Natural justice
The two-member bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Harinder Singh Sidhu went thoroughly through the case anf found that the MCI clause as irrational
The Medical Council of India’s stand was that the petitioners were not possessing MBBS degree. It is true that they obtained their M.Sc. qualification, thereafter, they acquired Ph.D. They were appointed as Professors on the basis of their qualifications, which was prescribed in Table I of the 1998 Regulations. What has been specifically provided to them, could not be taken back by clause 2 of Schedule I of the 1998 Regulations. Since the petitioners have been found to be eligible and qualified for the post of Professor in respective discipline of Pharmacology and Anatomy, they could not be declared ineligible to be HODs. They were declared eligible to be appointed as Professors as per the letters dated 16.03.2005 (Annexure P-4) and 06.10.2008 (Annexure P-5). The prescription of academic qualification for Head of Department is irrational, arbitrary and discriminatory. Clause 2 of Schedule I of the 1998 Regulations and the qualifications prescribed in Table I are required to be harmonised.
The court also noted that the authorities should have mentioned to the professors why the charge is being taken away from them and handed over to the juniors.
There is violation of principles of natural justice. No reasons have been assigned in the impugned order. Clause 2 of Schedule I of the 1998 Regulations is required to be read down to save it from unconstitutionality. The order is also unreasonable and irrational. The petitioners had legitimate expectation to continue to discharge the duties of HOD in their respective departments.
The court called for the MCI clause to be read down
In normal circumstances, we would have struck down clause 2 of Schedule I of the 1998 Regulations, whereby qualification of MBBS/equivalent has been prescribed for being designated as HOD. However, clause 2 of Schedule I of the 1998 Regulations is required to be read down to avoid it being declared unconstitutional by holding that the qualifications,which the petitioners possess, i.e. M.Sc. and Ph.D., are valid qualifications to be designated as HODs of Pharmacology and Anatomy
Clause 2 of Schedule I of the Minimum Qualifications for Teachers in Medical Institutions Regulations, 1998, whereby Heads of Departments of pre and para clinical subjects are required to possess recognised basic University degree qualification, i.e. MBBS or equivalent qualification, is read down being in conflict with Table I of the 1998 Regulations.
With these directions to the council, the court set aside the CAT order