Delhi High Court: V. Kameswar Rao, J., had set aside the controversial order of the CCIM (Central Council of Indian Medicine), whereby, number of doctors teaching at various Ayurvedic colleges were handed de-certification for working outside their State of registration. The Bench stated,
“The petitioners being in dark as to for what reasons, the material relied upon by them has been discarded, the impugned orders need to be set aside.”
The factual background common to all the petitions was that the CCIM had initially passed order dated 24-11-2020 whereby it withdrew the teacher’s code and debarred the teachers for a period of 10 years under Regulation 3(1)(f) of Regulations of 2016 which requires CCIM to certify that the teaching faculty present in a college is not working at any other place. Therefore, as per the said regulation it is the duty of the CCIM to check that a teaching faculty who has shown himself to be teaching at a particular college is not merely an ‘On Paper Teacher’.
However, on reconsideration, the said order was withdrawn with regard to all the teachers and fresh orders dated 14-01-2021 and 15-01-2021 had been passed whereby CCIM had decided not to certify the petitioners that they were not working elsewhere.
Arguments Advanced by the Petitioners
The petitioners submitted that imposition of punishment of ‘decertification as a teacher’ or ‘decertifying the Teacher Code’ has nowhere been provided as a punishment for being registered in another State or for violation of Regulation 26 by the CCIM. Additionally, the impugned decision was assailed by the petitioners on following grounds:
- The Regulation 3 of the Regulations of 2016 does not contemplate the consequence that the individual faculty members will be denied certification, rather it contemplates that the college will be denied permission if CCIM does not give certification in terms of 3(1)(f) of the Regulations of 2016.
- Regulation 26 of Regulations of 1982 does not empower CCIM to undertake the whole process of inquiry of alleged ‘On Paper Teachers’ rather it only mandates that every person registered as a practitioner shall intimate the concerned State Board or Council with respect to change in type of practice or change of address or succeeding to another practice. There was no reference to alleged non-compliance with Regulation 26 of Regulations of 1982 in the impugned orders.
- The only consequence for not notifying any change of address or practice to State Board or Council / Central Council was that the right to participate in the election of the members to the Central Council or a Board would be forfeited permanently or for such period as may be specified by an order of Central Government. (Ref: Section 31 of CCIM Act).
- The impugned orders of the CCIM were in violation of the principles of legitimate expectation and therefore arbitrary, excessively harsh and were liable to be quashed for violating Article 14 of the Constitution.
Opinion and Findings of the Court
“Regulation 3 of Regulations of 2016, shall have a twin effect, i.e., non-certification of the faculty / teacher and also the denial of permission to a particular college to function.”
Rejecting the submission of the petitoners that Regulations 3(1)(f) could not have been invoked as it contemplate that it was the college/institution which should be denied permission to run an Ayurvedic College and it did not authorise an action against the teachers, the Bench stated that Regulation 3 deals with the Requirements of Minimum Standards to grant permission and such a permission can be granted only if the College fulfils the requirement for the faculty(s) under the norms. But if the faculty/teacher is not in place, the same would result in CCIM denying the certification that the faculty/teacher is not working at any other place, 2016.
Whether Central Registration dispenses with the Requirement to obtain State Registration for the Teachers?
Regarding the stand that the petitioners were required to be registered in the State where he was teaching was contrary to the office letter dated 29-01-2021 which dispensed with the requirement of State registration for the teachers who had obtained central registration as per the CCIM Act, the Bench opined that it was true that the Regulation 26 of Regulations of 1982 provide the practitioner to inform the change in type of practice and address, but the fact that the impugned action was not an action under Regulation 26 but the CCIM had relied upon the information submitted by the teachers in the state register to, not to certify that he/ she was not working at any other place. Therefore, the Bench held that the registration in the Central register would not be of any help to the petitioners as it did not had any bearing/effect, the basis of the impugned orders was that the petitioners, though practicing at one place but were teaching at other distant places.
Whether the Order was Unjust on the Ground of Parity?
The plea of the petitioners, that the impugned orders were discriminatory as large number of identically situated Ayurvedic teachers had either been not touched or had been exonerated with identical facts and circumstances was rejected as unmerited as the petitioners had failed to state as to how those cases were identical. The Bench reiterated the Supreme Court’s opinion that, “even if some benefit has been given wrongly, it cannot be a reason to bestow the same benefit to the petitioners. There cannot be a negative equality.” State of Bihar v. Kameshwar Prasad Singh, (2000) 9 SCC 94)
Whether Past Certification by CCIM Creates an Embargo to reject Certification?
On the plea of the petitioners that the CCIM having certified the teachers in the previous inspection(s) and during these years the CCIM having not put forth the requirement of a registration in the State register of the respective State where the petitioners were teaching; the CCIM could not deny the certification concerned, the Bench expressed merely because in the past the CCIM had certified the teachers, that they were not working at any other place would not preclude CCIM on the basis of facts/evidence available to come to a conclusion that in fact a teacher is working/gainfully engaged at a different place, and thereby, not certify that the teacher is not working at any other place.
Further, the petitioners were required to follow the mandate of Regulation 26 and intimate the change of type of practice and address to the state board, to be in conformity with the address/place of the college where he/she is teaching. Not informing the same and teaching in a different state should surely suggest that he/she is practicing or working at a different place from the purported institution/college.
Whether CCIM went Outside its Jurisdiction while Denying Certification to the Teachers?
Rejecting the plea of the petitioners that CCIM did not have disciplinary powers to take action against the petitioners who were teachers governed by the CCIM Act, the Bench stated the impugned action was not a disciplinary action but a decision which emanated Regulation 3(1)(f) which the CCIM was empowered to take and which power had not been challenged by the petitioners.
Whether Separate Show-cause Notices were required for Notifying the Impugned Action?
Considering the fact that the CCIM/Ministry of Ayush was requesting the teachers and the colleges to desist from the practice of ‘On Paper Teachers’ ever since 2019, the Bench stated that when Regulation 26 mandates that change in type of practice or address shall be informed, it was required to be followed and for which no separate notice was required to be issued. Moreover, the impugned action was not for not following Regulation 26 but one emanating from Regulation 3(1)(f) of Regulations of 2016. The action being in accordance with Regulation 3(1)(f) of Regulations of 2016, it could not be said that the same violated Article 14 of the Constitution.
A related plea was that the principles of legitimate expectation clearly required that the CCIM ought to have given the petitioners a specific notice/intimation to shift their place of registration to the current state of employment. The Bench stated,
“It may be true that separate show-cause notices were not issued to the petitioners notifying the impugned action, but it cannot be said that no hearing was given to them. The hearing was given to them by the Grievance Redressal Committee wherein the petitioners have participated and relied upon, materials/documents in support of their stand that they were actually working in the college.”
Whether CCIM failed to consider the Materials Produced?
Noticeably, the petitioners were asked to furnish at least 7 out of 12 particulars sought for vide the said communication and that the said particulars were not considered by CCIM. Neither was it a case where the teachers having been found to be present on papers were physically absent. Accepting the plea of the petitioners that non-compliance of Regulation 26, could not disprove the physical presence of the teachers at the college, the Bench opined,
“The impugned orders passed do not reveal that the material produced by the petitioners has been considered. Even if considered, the material is not referred to.”
Relying on the decisions in Kothari Filaments v. Commr. of Customs, (2009) 2 SCC 192, and S.N. Mukherjee v. Union of India, (1990) 4 SCC 594, wherein it was held that “a person charged with misdeclaration is entitled to a proper hearing which would include documents on which reliance is placed”; the Bench held that the law in this regard is well settled that an authority discharging its functions under a statute/regulation must pass a reasoned order which would reveal the consideration of the relevant material in support of the said order.
In the view of the above, the matters were remanded back to the CCIM with a direction that they should pass fresh order(s) by considering all the material available with them including the material submitted by the individual petitioner. Further, the Court ordered that the status quo as prevailing with regard to each of the petitioners shall continue.[Anil Kumar Singh Bhadoria v. Union Of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 3807, decided on 26-07-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
Advocates before the Court:
Mr Sandeep Sethi and Mr A. Mariarputham, Sr. Advs. Mr Siddharth Gupta, Mr Avneesh Arputham, Mr Vikas Sethi, Mr Md. Zunaid Altamis, Mr Saurabh Dutta, Mr Animesh Kumar, Mr Nishant Kumar, Mr Ambuj Dixit, Ms Utkarsha Sharma, Ms.Shweta Singh, Mr Siddharth Sharma, Mr Amit Khemka, Mr Rishi Sehgal, Mr Midhun Aggarwal, Mr Jasbir Singh Malik, Mr Kanwar Udai Bhan Singh Sehrawat and Mr Akshay Bansal, Advs. for petitioners.
Ms Archana Pathak Dave, Mr Kumar Prashant, Ms Vanya Gupta and Mr Pramod Kumar Vishnoi, Mr Shashank Bajpai, Sr. Panel Counsel, Mrs Shakun Sudha Shukla, Ms Monika Arora, CGSC, Mr Shriram Tiwary, Ms Aakanksha Kaul, Mr Manek Singh, Mr. Manish Mohan, CGSC, Ms Manisha Saroha, Mr Avnish Singh, Ms Pushplata Singh, Ms Sumanlata Gautam, Mr Farman Ali, Mr Athar Raza Farooquei, Mr Vijay Joshi, Sr. Panel Counsel, Mr Neeraj, Mr Sahaj Garg, Mr Rudra Paliwal, Mr Vedansh Anand, Mr Sanjeev Sabharwal, Sr. Panel Counsel, Mr Jivesh Kumar Tiwari, Sr. Panel Counsel, Mr Santosh Kumar Pandey, Mr Harish Kumar Garg, Ms Payal Aggarwal, Mr Rajesh Kumar, Sr. Panel Counsel, Mr Satya Ranjan Swain, Central Govt. Sr. Panel Counsel, Mr Soumendu Mukherjee, G.P., Mr Kautilya Birat, Mr Akshay Amritanshu, Mr Vikrant N. Goyal, Mr Suraj Kumar, Mr Alok Singh, Sr. Panel Counsel, Mr Vijayender Kumar, Mr Dhruv Kapur, Mr Maharshi Kaler, Mr Tanveer Ahmed Ansari, Mr Naginder Benipal, Sr. Panel Counsel, Ms Rupali Kapoor, Govt. Pleader and Ms Harithi Kambiri, Advs. for respondents.