Ensure Effective implementation of NMC 2021 regulations to stop Ragging: Allahabad HC
Lucknow: Taking cognizance of the instances of ragging in medical colleges, a Division bench of Allahabad High Court recently insisted on the proper implementation of the National Medical Commission (Prevention and Prohibition of Ragging in Medical Colleges and Institutions) Regulations 2021.However, the court also stressed upon the importance of discussing the legal protection available...
Lucknow: Taking cognizance of the instances of ragging in medical colleges, a Division bench of Allahabad High Court recently insisted on the proper implementation of the National Medical Commission (Prevention and Prohibition of Ragging in Medical Colleges and Institutions) Regulations 2021.
However, the court also stressed upon the importance of discussing the legal protection available to the students accused of ragging when he/she is subjected to inquiry under Regulation 23(2) and noted, "we may fail in our duty if we do not discuss the legal protection available to a student, accused of ragging, when he is subjected to an inquiry/investigation under Regulation 23(2). The consequence of action against such a student which may ensue ultimately under Regulation 24, may be far-reaching even to the extent that in a given case it may ruin his career."
Therefore, pointing out the need for implementation of the rules in a fair and appropriate manner, the bench comprising of Justices Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Saurabh Srivastava noted, "Having regard to the seriousness of the consequences in respect of future career of a student pursuing a vocational course, we also are of the opinion that Regulation 23 of 2021 Regulations ought to be followed meticulously and in its letter and spirit. It is only when the Institution/Medical Colleges strictly follow and act upon the Regulation 23 in its entirety and in its true respect that a balance between the rights of the students accused of ragging and a student who is victim of ragging can be maintained. We are also conscious of the fact that Regulations 2021 have been framed and published only recently as on 18.11.2021 and are, thus, in their nascent stage. Implementation of Regulations 2021 will thus require some amount of understanding as to how the Regulations are to apply not only as a measure to check the menace of ragging, but also as a measure to conduct the inquiry/investigation as contemplated in Regulation 23 in a fair and appropriate manner."
Referring to the Regulation 23 of 2021 Regulations, under which the inquiry/investigation gets conducted, the bench laid down certain principles as a caution while conducting inquiry against the students accused of ragging.
"(a) On receiving report of any misconduct or ragging, the statutory mechanism, as provided in 2021 Regulations, shall be activated immediately, without any delay of any kind. Once the specific committee is constituted by the Head of the Institution to enquire/investigate and report into the complaint received by the authorities of the institution, the specific committee, the Anti-Ragging Committee as also the Head of the Institution shall maintain complete confidentiality about the name of the complainant, however, if it becomes necessary to disclose the name during the course of inquiry, such disclosure shall be confined only to the Members of the specific committee, Members of the Anti-Ragging Committee, Principal of the Institution and if deemed fit, to the student who is charged with ragging as well.
(b) On constitution of the specific committee, the committee shall give notice to the complainant, witnesses and the student accused of ragging, for being present in the inquiry to be conducted by it. If statement of the complainant or the witnesses are recorded, the student accused of ragging, shall be provided with a copy thereof, inviting his reply to such statements, however, having regard to the nature of inquiry it will not be permissible to the student accused of ragging, to cross-examine the complainant/witnesses.
(c) On recording the statement of the complainant/witnesses opportunity of making statement in defence shall be provided to the student against whom the charge of ragging has been made. The statement of complainant, that of witnesses, statement in reply to such statements to be made by the student accused of ragging, as also the defence statement of the student accused of ragging, shall be recorded and reduced in writing as far as possible on the same day and if for some reason it is not possible to record the statement on the same day, on the next working day
(d) The specific committee shall thereafter prepare its report and submit it to the Anti-Ragging Committee in terms of the provisions contained in Regulation 23(3) and 23(4) of 2021 Regulations, which shall submit its report/recommendation to Head of the Institution as envisaged under Regulation 23(5).
(e) As observed above in (d), on receipt of report from the specific committee, the Anti-Ragging Committee shall examine the report and make recommendation for further administrative action to the Head of the Institution
(f) The Head of the Institution before taking final decision/action in terms of Regulation 24 shall provide a copy of the report/recommendation which may be made by the Anti-Ragging Committee, to the student facing the charge of ragging. The Head of the Institution will, thus, invite comments/explanation/reply from the student who is accused of ragging on the report/recommendation which may be made by the Anti-Ragging Committee and shall take decision on consideration of the report/recommendation of the AntiRagging Committee as also the reply/explanation which may be submitted by the student accused of ragging to the report/recommendation of the Anti-Ragging Committee and other relevant material which may be available on record.
(g) On receipt of report/recommendation made by the Anti-Ragging Committee, the Head of the Institution shall give not more than two days time to the student accused of ragging for furnishing his explanation/reply/comments to the report of the Anti-Ragging Committee and thereupon take a final decision, as aforesaid."
However, the court clarified that "the principles as a precautionary measure as are being laid down by us in this judgment are only to aid the provisions of 2021 Regulations and they are not in any manner to supersede or even to supplant the same. The authorities of a Medical College or any other Institution are to be primarily, thus, governed by the statutory regulations namely Regulations 2021."
'We have evolved these guidelines, as already observed above, not in any manner, in derogation of the 2021 regulations, rather only to facilitate appropriate implementation of the Regulations including Regulations 23 and 24 and accordingly our observations are to be understood in this perspective and context alone," it noted.
These observations were made by the HC bench while it was considering a case of an MBBS intern who had been rusticated by Saraswati Medical College Unnao for a period of three months after he had been accused of ragging. Two MBBS students of 2020 batch had brought the allegations of ragging against the concerned student, who allegedly misbehaved with them. Further, the 2020 batch students claimed that there were not feeling secure to complete their studies due to the threat extended by the concerned MBBS intern.
On the basis of the complaint, an urgent investigation report had been prepared and after approval of the Anti Ragging Committee of the institute, a specific committee had been constituted. During the proceedings, the committee recorded the statements made by the complainants, the witnesses and also of the petitioner student. It also considered the CCTV footage and other relevant material. After this, the Committee rusticated the petitioner student temporarily for a period of three months from his internship in the institute.
However, the order passed by the medical college was challenged before the Single Judge bench of the Allahabad HC and the court set aside the order also directed that the certificate which may be awarded to the petitioner student after completion of Internship shall not record that he was found guilty of ragging in the Institution. Following this, the institute approached the Division bench of the HC.
It was the argument of the college that the inquiry had been conducted while following the provisions contained in the statutory regulations known as National Medical Commission (Prevention and Prohibition of Ragging in Medical Colleges and Institutions) Regulations 2021. The institute also contended that the Regulations did not have any provision for allowing the student to confront the Inquiry report or for issuing show-cause notice inviting explanation/ reply.
After considering the submissions by both the parties, the HC bench referred to several provisions of the NMC Regulations 2021 including Regulations 3 and 4 to understand the definition of ragging. Besides, the court also noted that the regulations also provided for other measures to be taken by the Institutes including setting up Anti Ragging Squad, establishing Anti Ragging Control Room, Helpline/Monitoring Committee/Monitoring Cell etc. The bench also referred to Regulations 23 and 24 specifying the procedure for conducting institutional inquiry and taking administrative action against guilty students.
Taking cognizance of the instances of ragging, the court also observed at one point that
"We are also conscious of the fact that ragging in the Medical Colleges and other colleges of professional studies is a menace, which is rampant and if it is not checked appropriately, it causes great mental, physical and psychological harassment of the students entering into such institutions with a hope of completing their studies relating to professional courses. We are also conscious of the fact that in case any new entrant as a student in such courses of studies is subjected to ragging or any other misconduct, that too by a student who is quite senior to him, the same may have an impact on him which may be difficult to erase from his psyche throughout his life."
"It is common knowledge that incidents of ragging and other misconducts by seniors in institutions of vocational studies sometimes have such a deep and long-lasting adverse impact on the junior students that it becomes difficult for such students to come out of the trauma and agony which may sometimes hamper his studies and in turn spoil his future as well. In this view of the matter, we have no doubt in our mind that the menace of ragging is to be dealt with the sternest of measures by the authorities of the institution as also by various regulatory authorities like the Universities and the National Medical Commission. It is for fulfillment of such objective that Regulations 2021 have been framed," it further noted.
Although the bench lauded the purpose and object for framing such regulations, it also noted
"Regulation 23(2) clearly provides that the inquiry/investigation by the specific committee shall be conducted not only in fair and transparent manner, but also without any bias or prejudice. It further provides that the specific committee while conducting the inquiry/investigation shall uphold the principals of Natural Justice giving adequate opportunity to the student or students against whom charges/complaint of ragging are leveled/made. It, thus, clearly encompasses in its fold adequate protection to a studengt facing the charge of ragging. Occurrence of the words "Upholding the principles of Natural Justice and giving adequate opportunity to the students or students, accused of ragging" in Regulation 23(2) makes it more than clear that condemning a student of any alleged act of ragging is not permissible without affording him opportunity of hearing, placing the facts, making his statement as also confronting with any material, which is proposed to be relied upon by the Institution for taking action against such student."
Referring to the case, the court took note of the fact that the report submitted by the specific committee and the Anti-ragging panel and also the statements by the witnesses were not provided to the concerned petitioner student and he had been "deprived of adequate opportunity in terms of the provisions contained in Regulation 23(2) of the regulations 2021 for putting forth his case."
Therefore, the court directed,
"...accordingly we are of the opinion that the inquiry as contemplated in Regulation 23 of 2021 Regulations 2021 against the respondent no. 1-petitioner be conducted afresh by furnishing him copy of the complaint, statement of the complainants and witnesses made before the Specific Committee on 21.7.2022 and inviting his reply to the same and permitting him to make statement in his defence. Thereafter the appellant-Institution shall complete the inquiry in terms of Regulation 2021 as also keeping in view the observations made hereinabove."
To view the order, click on the link below.
Barsha completed her MA from the University of Burdwan, West Bengal in 2018. Having a knack for Journalism she joined Medical Dialogues back in 2020. She mainly covers news about medico legal cases, NMC/DCI updates, medical education issues including the latest updates about medical and dental colleges in India. She can be contacted at email@example.com.