Madhya Pradesh High Court: The Division Bench of Sujoy Paul and Arun Kumar Sharma, JJ., quashed the National Medical Commission’s decision rejecting L.N. Medical College & Research Centre’s application for increase of MBBS seats. Opening the decision to be beyond the jurisdiction of the NMC, the Bench stated,
“…language of statute is plain and clear that the decision of the Board must be based on the touch-stone of yardsticks mentioned in Section 29. A room for any doubt that CBI’s self contained note by no stretch of imagination can be a reason for approving or disapproving the scheme or to disallow an application.”
The instant petition challenged the order of National Medical Commission (NMC) dated 10-01-2022 whereby, the request of the petitioner institution for increase of MBBS seats for the MBBS -UG Course from 150 to 250 for the current academic year 2021-22 was turned down.
By placing reliance on the relevant portions of Section 28 & 29 of the NMC Act the petitioner submitted that the NMC was obliged to take a decision regarding approval or disapproval for increase of seats by taking into account the criteria mentioned in Section 29 of the said Act.
The petitioner argued that on the one hand, increase of seats for the petitioner’s institution was declined on the basis of CBI’s letter dated 22-07-2021 and on the other hand, other colleges who were similarly situated were given the benefit of increase of seats institution. The petitioner submitted, even otherwise, pendency of CBI enquiry/investigation could not be a ground to deny approval to petitioner institution as there was no expressed substantive provision empowering the authorities to do so.
The petitioner submitted that even during inspection the shortage of teaching faculty was found to the tune of only 1.25% (2 out of 159) which was negligible in a case of sudden inspection. While the infrastructure facility, clinical material, library, laboratory and teaching faculties were found to be adequate.
Findings and Opinion
Section 28 of the NMC Act makes it clear that the Medical Assessment and Rating Board was required to take a decision to approve or disapprove the scheme of establishing any course or increase of numbers of seats based on the criteria mentioned in Clause (a) to (d) of Section 29 of the said Act. Therefore, oping that CBI’s self contained note by no stretch of imagination could be a reason for approving or disapproving the scheme, the Bench held that NMC declining increase of seats was based on a reason beyond the scope of Section 28 and 29 of the NMC Act.
Appreciating the petitioner’s submission that the penalty imposed in the impugned order was without authority of law as the Establishment of Medical College Regulations, 1999 do not permit the NMC to impose such a punishment. Hence, in the absence of any enabling provision in the governing statute, the Bench held that the punishment imposed could not sustain judicial scrutiny.
On the issue of there being available alternate remedies, the Bench observed that the since the impugned order was outside the scope and ambit of the NMC Act, the petitioner could not be relegated to avail the remedy of appeal under Sub Section 5 of Section 28 of the Act. Moreover, the impugned order contained singular reason based on CBI’s self contained note and despite the fact that said note contained the name of petitioner college and other five colleges, the respondents had granted benefit to People’s College and Index Medical College which was also in that list. Hence, the decision was discriminatory also and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
Relying on Whirlpool Corporation vs. Registrar of Trade Marks, (1998) 8 SCC 1, the Bench stated that the statutory remedy is not a bar for exercising of jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution if order is passed without following principles of natural justice, it hits any fundamental right, passed by an incompetent authority or constitutionality of a provision is called in question, in such cases, despite availability of alternative remedy, writ petition can be entertained.
In the light of the above, the Bench held that since the CBI’s self contained note could not form basis for ‘letter of disapproval’, there was no justification in sending the matter for consideration to the appellate authority. Further, since very short time was left for the next counselling, the Bench concluded that the petitioner could not be relegated to avail the alternative remedy of appeal.
Hence, applying wednesbury principles, the Bench quashed the impugned order. The NMC was directed to take a fresh decision on the application of petitioner for increase of MBBS seats from 150 to 250 strictly within the four corners of Section 28, 29 and other provisions of NMC Act before 08-02-2022. [L.N. Medical College & Research Centre v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine MP 204, decided on 03-02-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant ha reported this brief.
For the Petitioner: Siddharth Radhe Lal Gupta, Advocate
For Union of India: J.K. Jain, Assistant Solicitor General
For National Medical Commission: Anoop Nair, Advocate
For State of Madhya Pradesh: Akshay Pawar, Advocate