Surprise Inspection

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 11 Dec 2017 12:34:33











At the time of consideration for recognition, the compliance is viewed and scrutinised with great rigour and strictness. What may be treated as a minor deficiency at the initial stage may not remain so when the institution / college proceeds from year to year.

In the judgement of the case - Indian Centre for Advancement of Research and Education Haldia (ICARE) & Another v. Union of India & Another, delivered on September 21, 2017, by a three-judge Bench at the Supreme Court consisting of the CJI Dipak Misra, Justice Amitava Roy and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar has ruled that while granting approval and recognition for establishing a new medical College, it is legally permissible for the Medical Council of India to conduct surprise inspection and merely the allegation that the surprise inspection was conducted within a fortnight would not make that tainted one and the Central Government’s order passed in this regard would be justified.

Through a writ petition in this case, under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, the petitioner -ICARE With the other petitioner - ICARE Institute of Medical Sciences and Research and Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy Hospital, Haldia, in West Bengal have prayed for quashing the order of May 31, 2017, passed by the Competent Authority of the Government of India Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and further to issue direction to the respondents to grant recognition under Section 11(2) of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, approval to the MBBS degree to be awarded by the West Bengal University of Health Sciences, Kolkata, in respect of the students who have completed their courses at the petitioner college.

To appreciate the controversy in proper perspective, it is extremely crucial to understand the scheme of the MCI Act and how the same has been understood and appreciated by the Apex Court. Section 3 of the Act deals with constitution and composition of the MCI. Section 10 provides the constitution of the Executive Committee and further stipulates that in addition to the powers and duties conferred on it by the Act, the committee shall exercise and discharge such powers and duties as the Council may confer or impose upon it by Regulations of 1999, which may be made in that behalf.

Section 10-A (1) provides for permission to establish new medical college and new course of study. It stipulates that notwithstanding anything contained in the Act or any other law for the time being in force, no person shall establish a medical college and no medical college shall open a new or higher course of study or training including a post graduate course of study or training or increase its admission capacity in any course of study or training except with the previous permission of the Central Government obtained in accordance with the provisions of the said section.

Section 10-A (2) provides that every person or medical college shall for the purpose of obtaining permission under sub-section (1), submit to the Central Government a scheme in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 (B) and the Central Government shall refer the scheme to the MCI for its recommendations. Regulations 8 (3) (1) have been added on February 8, 2016, which stipulates that permission to establish a medical college and admit students may be granted initially for a period of one year and may be renewed on yearly basis subject to verification of the achievement of targets. It also provides that the process of renewal of permission to continue till such time establishment of medical college and expansion of the hospital facilities is completed, and thereafter a formal recognition of the medical college is granted.

It clearly lays down that further admissions shall not be made at any stage unless the requirements of the MCI are fulfilled and the Central Govt. may at any stage convey the deficiencies to the College and provide an opportunity and time to rectify the deficiencies.

These Regulations deal with the compliance verification. In this case, after the college submitted that it had complied with deficiencies pointed out by the team of assessors, the MCI thought it necessary to have an inspection. It is not in dispute that the said inspection was a surprise inspection and further it was required to be done to verify whether the institution was really compliant or not. In the verification report of April 24, 2017. as the assessors have pointed out, there are number of deficiencies.

In this case, allegations have been made against the assessors, who are experts in the field and the Court found no reason to attribute any kind of malice or malafide to them in the absence of any kind of material brought on record, the mere allegations that there was a surprise inspection, within a fortnight, would not make the inspection a tainted one.

The Supreme Court has noted again that an institution has to remain compliant and necessity for remaining compliant becomes more important as the institution enters the renewal year and thereafter for grant of approval and recognition under Section 11(2) of the Act.

At the time of consideration for recognition, the compliance is viewed and scrutinised with great rigour and strictness. What may be treated as a minor deficiency at the initial stage may not remain so when the institution / college proceeds from year to year. In this case, the Court has already held that surprise inspection in law is permissible and the said inspection is not tainted with malafide, as alleged.

Once the Court arrives at such an irresistible conclusion, the order passed by the Central Government with the assistance of the Hearing Committee cannot be flawed. After holding so, the apex court has directed that the students who have been admitted in the respective courses shall be permitted to continue in the courses and the students who pass out from the institution, the MCI shall see to it that they are conferred degrees.

The MCI is directed to conduct an inspection for recognition keeping in view the academic year 2018-19 and if during the inspection any deficiency is noted, the same shall be intimated to the petitioner - institution and thereafter, process shall be carried out keeping in view the principles of natural justice in mind and the principles stated in the judgement of the case - IQ City Foundation v. Union of India -(2017) 8 SCALE 369.

The inspection shall be carried out as per the schedule by the MCI for grant of recognition for the academic year 2018-19 and to avoid any kind of uncalled for situation, the application submitted for the academic year 2017-18 shall be treated as application for the academic year 2018-19. The bank guarantee furnished by the institution shall not be encashed by the MCI and the petitioners shall keep it alive.
The Supreme Court has disposed of the petition with these directions.