Violation of MCI norms: Supreme Court Imposes Rs 5 Crore Fine on Saraswati Medical College
New Delhi: Observing intentional violation on part of the medical college towards the norms laid by the erstwhile Medical Council of India, MCI (now NMC), the Supreme Court has slapped a fine of Rs 5 crore on the Saraswati Education Charitable Trust for admitting 132 MBBS students without seeking a nod from the Director General Medical Education (UP DGME).
In addition, the apex court granted admission to 71 MBBS students in the second year in 2017-18 while allowing 132 students to complete the MBBS course on the condition that they will do community service for two years after becoming doctors.
The SC bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao and also comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat, passed the order after going through the writ petition filed by Saraswati Educational Charitable Trust challenging the MCI notice directing the Saraswati Medical College to discharge 132 out of 150 students admitted in the first year MBBS course for the academic year 2017-2018.
Consequent to this notice, a petition was filed by 71 students who have been admitted in first year MBBS course for the academic year 2017-2018 in Saraswati Medical College to permit them to continue with their studies and to direct the Registrar, Uttar Pradesh Medical Council to declare their results of the first year MBBS course
Saraswati Medical College was established by Saraswati Educational Charitable Trust in the year 2016. The College applied for a grant of renewal of permission for admission of 150 students for the academic year 2017-2018. An inspection was conducted in November 2016 followed by a second surprise inspection by the assessing team on 21st and 22nd November 2016. Renewal of permission was not granted by an order dated 10th August 2017 which was challenged by the petitioner.
The SC by its judgment dated 1st September 2017 directed the authorities including MCI to permit the College to take part in the counselling process for the year 2017-2018. 735 students applied/registered within the time schedule for admission to 150 students in the College. DGME forwarded a list of 150 students on the basis of their merit amongst 735 students. Only 9 out of 150 students reported and completed their admission formalities according to the College.
It was submitted that without waiting for a response from DGME, the College issued an urgent notice informing all the 735 candidates who opted for admission pursuant to the DGME notice to avail the opportunity of admission in the College. It was stated in the said notice that admissions will be made in the order of merit from amongst 735 students and the admissions would be completed by 11:59 p.m. on 5th September, 2017. In the meanwhile, 9 more students from the original list of 150 students sent by the DGME were admitted by the College. The College filled up 132 seats.
Later, on receipt of information about the admission of 132 students by the medical College on its own without being recommended by the DGME, the Medical Council of India by a letter dated 29th September 2017 directed the Principal, Saraswati Medical College to discharge the 132 students who were admitted in violation of the Medical Council of India Regulations on Graduate Medical Education, 1997.
The petition was filed challenging this notice and a further notice was issued allowing the students to continue the study and were permitted to take the examinations for the first year MBBS course by the Chhatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj University, Kanpur.
The contention of the College was that 132 students were admitted from the list of 735 candidates who have applied pursuant to a DGME notice strictly on the basis of merit amongst those who approached the College under extraordinary circumstances. It was argued on behalf of the College that the DGME was lethargic in not allotting a sufficient number of students for admission to first-year MBBS 2017-2018 till 4th September 2017 though he was informed about the order passed by the apex court.
On 5th September 2017, the DGME allotted only 150 students out of whom initially 9 and thereafter 9 students took admission. The department was informed about the fact that only a few students took admission. However, it did not allot students from the list of 735 students. Having no other alternative, the College made admissions from the list of 735 candidates, the counsel appearing for the medical college submitted further arguing that the admissions were based on merit of the candidates who have applied and till date there is no complaint from any student that he/she was ignored in spite of being more meritorious than the students who were admitted.
The students pleaded ignorance about any illegality or irregularity in the matter of their admission to the first year MBBS course for the year 2017-2018. As they cannot be held responsible for any violation of the Regulations, if any, they requested the Supreme Court to permit them to complete the course as they are all NEET qualified candidates and their names were in the list of 735 students who applied pursuant to the DGME notice.
The learned counsel for the erstwhile Medical Council of India relied upon Regulation 5 A of the Medical Council Regulations on Graduate Medical Education, 1997 to argue that all admissions to the MBBS course shall be on the basis of the merit list of the NEET. "Admissions shall be made from the list sent by the Director-General Medical Education on the basis of the ranking of the students in NEET. The College can make admissions of students allotted by the Director-General Medical Education. In case students from the list of 150 did not join before the last date, the College should have approached this Court for an extension of time and for a direction to the Director-General Medical Education to allot more students," the counsel submitted.
It was argued on behalf of the MCI that the students who were admitted contrary to the Regulations are not entitled to claim any equity and the College which acted in blatant violation of the Regulation is liable to be penalized suitably.
"Regulation 5 A of the Regulations provides for counselling for admission to MBBS course in all medical educational institutions on the basis of merit list of NEET. According to the said Regulations, no admissions can be made by the Petitioner-College on its own."
Deliberating the matter all through, the apex court bench observed that the College ought not to have admitted 132 students by conducting a selection on its own without requesting the DGME to send more candidates.
"The third Respondent- DGME cannot be blamed for any delay on his part in carrying out the directions issued by this Court.. The College sent an email to the third Respondent at 6:32 p.m. on 1st September 2017. Admittedly, 2nd and 3rd September were not working days. The third Respondent acted swiftly on 4th September 2017 and sought for applications from interested students for admission to the college in the first-year MBBS course. 735 students made applications. 150 meritorious students out of 735 were allotted to the College for admission to the first-year MBBS course for the academic year 2017-2018. Only 9 out of 150 students, according to the College took admission. The third Respondent cannot be said to have been negligent."
Noting that the College ought not to have issued a notice and admitted 132 students in four hours, the bench said, "It is very difficult to accept the submission on behalf of the College that students who were not in the list of 150 students, sent by the Director-General Medical Education were all waiting for their admission after 7.30 p.m. on 5th September 2017. We reject the submission of the College that there was no other alternative, except to make admission from the list of 735 students."
It said the students who have secured admission cannot be said to be innocent as they knew fully well that their names were not recommended by the DGME.
"We also do not agree that students and their parents were not aware that their admissions in College are contrary to the Regulations. In spite of the letter dated 29th September, 2017 issued by the Medical Council of India, the College did not discharge the students. The said direction issued by the Medical Council of India was not stayed by this Court. In spite of this, the students continued their first year MBBS course and managed to write the first year MBBS course examinations after being permitted by the University."
Holding that the admission of 132 students in the College for the academic year 2017-2018 being completely contrary to the Regulations, the bench dismissed their petitions further taking note of the fact that the students have completed the second year MBBS course, cancelling their admissions at this stage would not serve any useful purpose. Hence, it directed the students to provide community service for 2 years.
"The students who joined the College knowing fully well that their admissions are contrary to the Regulations are directed to do community service for a period of two years after completing their MBBS course. The National Medical Commission shall decide the details and workout the modalities of the community service to be rendered by the 132 students. Respondent No.6-University is directed to conduct the second year MBBS examination for 126 students admitted in the Petitioner-College and who completed their second year course at the earliest and declare their results. They shall be permitted to complete the MBBS course. This direction is issued only to save the students from losing three academic years in the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case and shall not be treated as a precedent."
Ultimately, holding the medical college responsible in violating MCI norms, the Supreme Court imposed a fine of Rs 5 crore and stated:
Being aware of the fact that admissions cannot be made from students not allotted by the third Respondent, the College admitted 132 students on its own. Thereafter, the College permitted the students to continue their studies in spite of the direction by the Medical Council of India to discharge the students not being stayed. Intentional violation of the Regulations by the Petitioner-College while granting admission to 132 students in the first year MBBS course for the academic year 2017-2018 cannot be condoned.
The Petitioner-College is directed to deposit an amount of Rupees Five Crores in the Registry of this Court within a period of 8 weeks from today. The Petitioners are directed not to recover the amount from the students in any manner whatsoever.
The bench directed the National Medical Commission to create a trust with this money for assistance to needy students in Uttar Pradesh
"We direct NMC to constitute a Trust which shall include the Accountant General of the State of Uttar Pradesh, an eminent educationist and a representative of the State of Uttar Pradesh as Members of the Trust. The Trust constituted to manage the amount of Rupees Five Crores to be deposited by the Petitioner-College shall extend financial assistance to needy students seeking admission to medical colleges in the State of Uttar Pradesh. An Action Taken Report along with the copy of the Trust-Deed shall be filed by the National Medical Commission within a period of 12 weeks from today."