M A I N   N E W S

Venu back, Ramadoss refuses to go away
Tripti Nath
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 8
In a setback to the government, the Supreme Court today struck down a law used to ease out noted cardiologist P. Venugopal as Director of the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) after a bitter row with health minister Anbumani Ramadoss.

Prof Venugopal stepped into his office after a gap of five months when the Supreme Court struck down the AIIMS (amendment) Act, 2007 as unconstitutional.

The quashing of the legislation facilitated the smooth reinstatement of the 66-year-old surgeon, who was removed in an unceremonious manner in November after Parliament passed the Bill. His five-year tenure comes to an end on July 2 this year.

A division Bench comprising Justice Tarun Chatterjee and Justice Harjit Singh Bedi declared the amendment unconstitutional on the ground that the purpose of the Act was to target the petitioner, Prof Venugopal. The apex court also accepted the contention of the petitioner that the Act was a case of hostile discrimination against him.

Prof Venugopal had challenged the amendment to the AIIMS Act that fixed the upper age of Director at 65 years, a step that forced him to relinquish office.

The Union health minister, who has had to bite the dust, did not see the Supreme Court verdict as a setback to him. “It is not a setback for me. It was not my decision but that of the government, which was even approved by Parliament. Where is the case of misleading Parliament.”

Ramadoss said he would take appropriate decision after studying the judgement. “Let us go through the judgement. We have not decided anything.”

Dismissing demands by the BJP that he should resign, Ramadoss said there was no question of resigning.

BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said today that the Supreme Court had given the health minister a dose of judicial treatment.

Rajya Sabha MP and former health minister Sushma Swaraj pointed a finger at the Congress-led UPA government for failing to protect the interests of an institute of national eminence. She alleged that Ramadoss had misused Parliament to ease out Venugopal after he did not get a favourable verdict from the high court. She said the judgement was a defeat for the Prime Minister, the health minister and his mala fide intentions. “I demand the resignation of Ramadoss and if he is not resigning, I want the Prime Minister to dismiss him forthwith,” said Swaraj.

This is not the first time that Prof Venugopal has succeeded in foiling the attempts of the health minister to dethrone him. In 2006, the institute’s body headed by Ramadoss passed a resolution terminating the tenure of Prof Venugopal. Thanks to the judiciary, Venugopal had the last laugh.

After acknowledging greetings and bouquets from his office staff and loyalists this afternoon, Prof Venugopal sat in his office for half an hour. The Director’s office put up his nameplate again after removing that of the acting Director, Prof T.D. Dogra.

Prof Venugopal, who in the past had avoided the Press like plague, chose not to interact with media persons. His two para message circulated to the Press said, “I have always served the institute and will continue to do so for the time given to me.”

While thanking all like-minded people concerned with the well-being and further advancement of AIIMS in serving the masses, Venugopal took care to thank the media for supporting AIIMS.

Sources close to the AIIMS Director said he had been advised by his lawyers not to talk to the Press.

The Faculty Association of AIIMS (FAIMS) and the Resident Doctors Association said they would celebrate their Director’s return following his moral victory in the legal battle. FAIMS president prof B.K. Khaitan said, “It has been proved beyond doubt that this amendment was brought by Anbumani Ramadoss after misguiding the members of Parliament. If the health minister has a word in his dictionary called ‘morality’, he must resign. The entire faculty is united in celebrating his verdict by having symbolic illumination and firework.”

Prof Manoj Singh said the AIIMS Amendment Act was a one man legislation targeting Prof Venugopal, the heath minister’s sworn enemy. “Such legislation is bad in law”.

The doctors association also joined the FAIMS in hailing the verdict of the apex court. Association president Kumar Harsh said, “We salute the Supreme Court for this wonderful judgement. This has strengthened our belief in the judiciary.”

Vikas Bajpai, spokesperson for the Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum (PMSF), said they may consider making a formal representation to the government to ensure that caste discrimination did not continue on the campus in the best interest of the institute.




Law removing Venugopal was ‘unconstitutional’
Tripti Nath
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 8
Eminent jurist Fali S. Nariman today hailed the Supreme Court verdict quashing the AIIMS (Amendment) Act on the ground that it was as unconstitutional and was brought in to target the petitioner and AIIMS Director Prof P. Venugopal.

Nariman, who represented the aggrieved AIIMS Director when the matter was admitted to an early hearing in the Supreme Court late last year, said the case was abnormal because it was a “vicious way of going after one individual”.

Asked if the quashing of the AIIMS Amendment Act, 2007 brings to the fore the conflict between the legislature and the judiciary, the constitutional expert replied in the negative.

“The judiciary has the constitutional right and duty to strike down any legislation on the ground that it affects only one individual and the circumstances are such that it is a case of naked or hostile discrimination. In this matter, it was purely the executive that was behaving in an unconstitutional and arbitrary manner and discriminating against one individual without any rational grounds to support it. It is not unusual to come across laws which have been passed by Parliament and have been struck down by the courts for violating Article 14.”

He drew attention to Lord Hailscham’s, the Lord Chancellor’s description of English Parliament as comprising legislatures and “executatures” and not executives. This means that the executive is able to impose its will on Parliament because the representatives in Parliament, who belong to the ruling party are in a majority.

Nariman said the AIIMS case was reminiscent of the Dalmia case that was more than 25 years old and the century-old Yickwo case in America. “Both these cases are cited as individual discrimination by law. In the Dalmia case, the Ramakrishna Dalmia Commission of Inquiry was set up against one individual to see whether his alleged misdeed was valid or invalid. The Supreme Court said you could strike down a law if it was a law that singled out one individual for discriminatory treatment. In the Yickwo case, the Chinese laundry in America was discriminated against, in that, it was not allowed to keep late hours while others were.”



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