The Supreme Court on Wednesday imposed a fine of Rs. 5 crores on Saraswati Medical College for admitting students to MBBS course in violation of Medical Council of India Regulations on Graduate Medical Education, 1997 (Regulations) [Saraswati Educational Charitable Trust v. Union of India].
A Bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat also ordered the 132 students, who had secured the admission, to do two years community service after completing the course in view of the fact that they were fully aware at the time of getting admitted that their admissions were contrary to the Regulations.
“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 Court held.
The college should not to recover the amount from the students in any manner whatsoever, the Court added.
The judgment was rendered in a plea by the college challenging the notice of September 29, 2017, issued by Medical Council of India (MCI) by which Saraswati Medical College was directed to discharge 132 out of 150 students admitted in the first year Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) course for the academic year 2017-2018.
The Court was also seized of a petition filed by 71 students admitted in first year MBBS course for the academic year 2017-2018 seeking permission to allow them to continue their studies.
Saraswati Medical College was established by Saraswati Educational Charitable Trust in the year 2016. The college applied for grant of renewal of permission for admission of 150 students for the academic year 2017-2018 which was rejected. This was challenged before the Supreme Court by the college.
By a judgment of September, 2017, the Supreme Court directed the MCI and other authorities to permit the college to take part in the counselling process for the year 2017-2018. The cut-off date for completion of admission in respect of the college was extended till September 5, 2017 and the respondents were directed to make available students willing to take admission in the college through central counselling in order of merit.
The case against the college was that it issued an urgent notice informing 735 NEET candidates to avail the opportunity of admission in the college and admitted 132 students pursuant to the same.
This was done without waiting for Director General Medical Education (Director General) to send the list of students from which the college has to grant admission.
Interestingly, the Director General had initially sent a list of 150 students on the basis of their merit amongst 735 students. However, only 9 out of 150 students had reported and completed their admission formalities by the cut-off date of September 5.
The college had then requested the Director General to send a second list but instead of waiting for the response of the Director General, the college proceeded to issue notice inviting students to take admission.
This prompted the MCI to issue notice to the college asking it to discharge 132 students admitted in the second round.
The college then approached the Supreme Court challenging the said notice.
It was argued on behalf of the college that the Director General was lethargic in not allotting sufficient number of students for admission till September 4, 2017 though he was informed about the order passed by the Supreme Court on September 1, 2017 itself.
Having no other alternative, the college made admissions from the list of 735 candidates who have applied pursuant to the September 4 notice of the Director General.
It was also argued on behalf of the college that the admissions were based on merit of the candidates who have applied and there was no complaint from any student that he/she was ignored in spite of being more meritorious than the students who were admitted.
The Medical Council of India relied upon Regulation 5A of the Regulations to argue that all admissions to the MBBS course should be on the basis of the merit list of the NEET. Admissions can be made from the list sent by the Director General on the basis of ranking of the students in NEET.
The college can make admissions of students allotted by the Director General. In case students from the list of 150 did not join before the last date, the college should have approached the Supreme Court for extension of time and for a direction to the Director General \to allot more students, it was argued.
The Supreme Court accepted this argument holding that the admission of 132 students in the college for the academic year 2017-2018 was completely contrary to the Regulations and done intentionally.
It, therefore, imposed fine of Rs. 5 crore on the petitioner college which was ordered to be deposited with the Supreme Court registry.
As regards the students who took admission, the Court took a similar view stating that they were aware that their admissions were contrary to the Regulations.
“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 Director General Medical Education. However, 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,” the Court said.
It, therefore, asked them 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,” the Court added.