The Supreme Court recently held in a judgment that the State Government is empowered to rescind the 'Essentiality Certificate' once permitted for initiating a new medical college on the ground of 'gross deficiency'.
“It would not be in the public interest nor appropriate for the State Government to remain a mute spectator and not move into action when the college miserably fails to translate the spirit behind the Essentiality Certificate within a reasonable time,” stated the bench consisting of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna.
With reference to the particular instance, the Madhya Pradesh Government repealed the Essentiality Certificate provided to Gyanjeet Sewa Mission Trust for starting a medical college in Jabalpur. This was disputed before the Madhya Pradesh High Court which backed the Government's order noting that it has given consideration to the fraud done by the college in seeking the Essentiality Certificate, the incompetency of the trust to furnish the minimum benchmarks of infrastructure and other facilities as provided by the Medical Council of India (MCI) for running of a medical college along with total loss of substratum and larger public interest, as reasons for cancellation of Essentiality Certificate.
The primary argument of the college was that the State Government does not have the jurisdiction to revoke the Essentiality Certificate on the basis of Deficient Functioning of a college. Giving justification to the same, the college contended on the basis of a Supreme Court judgment entitled Chintpurni Medical College and Hospital v State of Punjab.
Analyzing the aforementioned judgment, the three-judge bench observed that it concurs with the perspective that the act of the State in issuing Essentiality Certificate is a quasi-judicial function. It mentioned:
“Having said that, it must follow that Section 27 of the 1897 Act cannot be invoked and in absence of an express provision in the IMC Act or the 1999 Regulations empowering the State Government to revoke or cancel the Essentiality Certificate, such a power cannot be abrogated by the State relying on Section 21. That, however, does not deprive the State Government to revoke or withdraw the Essentiality Certificate in case where (a) it is secured by playing fraud on the State Government, (b) the substratum for issuing the certificate has been lost or disappears and (c) such like the ground, where no inquiry is called for on the part of the State Government. “
The court noted that in Chintpurni Medical College (supra), it was explained that the State Government can withdraw the Essentiality Certificate in exceptional cases. It said:
"We hold that Chintpurni Medical College (supra) does not lay down in absolute terms that the State cannot revoke the Essentiality Certificate once granted for the opening of a new medical college within the State. "
The court then observed that no renewal permission has been permitted by the MCI for three continuous academic sessions due to prominent deficiencies.
"The State Government whilst discharging its role of parens patriae of the student community cannot remain a mute spectator and expose them to a college, which is deficient in many respects. The fact that no renewal permission has been granted by the MCI for three successive academic sessions due to gross deficiencies in the appellant College, is itself indicative of the state of affairs in the appellant-College, warranting a legal inference that the substratum on the basis of which Essentiality Certificate was issued to the appellant-College had completely disappeared. "
The court furthermore explained that the authority of the State to grant Essentiality Certificate is both power coupled with a duty to ensure that the substratum of the spirit behind the Certificate does not disappear or is defeated.
"The exercise of power and performance of duty with responsibility and in right earnest must coexist. Notably, the duty under Article 47 is, in the constitutional sense, fundamental in the governance of the State. This duty does not end with a mere grant of a certificate, rather, it continues up to the point when essentiality of basic medical infrastructure is properly taken care of within a reasonable time frame. Any future application for such certificate, be it by the present appellant (in terms of directions in this judgment) or by a different applicant, must be dealt with accordingly, and supervision of the State must continue to ensure that the purpose and substratum for grant of such certificate does not and has not disappeared. "
The Court stated that while discussing the case of sticking to set benchmarks in a professional college, a strict method must be embraced because these colleges impart training and education to prospective medical professionals. It added:
"Thus, the future of the student community pursuing a medical course in such deficient colleges would get compromised besides producing inefficient and incompetent doctors from such colleges. That would be posing a bigger risk to the society at large and defeat the sanguine hope entrenched in the Essentiality Certificate issued by the State. "
The court further said that just due to the fact that the applicant has made certain investments for starting the medical college, cannot be the reason to erode the power of the State Government along with the duty to ensure that the medical college is established in terms of the Essentiality Certificate within a reasonable time. It added:
"We are conscious of the view taken and conclusion recorded in Chintpurni Medical College (supra). Even though the fact situation, in that case, may appear to be similar, however, in our opinion, in a case such as the present one, where the spirit behind the Essentiality Certificate issued as back as on 27.8.2014 has remained unfulfilled by the appellant-College for all this period (almost six years), despite repeated opportunities given by the MCI, as noticed from the summary/observation in the assessment report, it can be safely assumed that the substratum for issuing the Essentiality Certificate had completely disappeared. The State Government cannot be expected to wait indefinitely, much less beyond a period of five years, thereby impacting the interests of the student community in the region and the increased doctor-patient ratio and denial of a healthcare facility in the attached hospital due to gross deficiencies. Such a situation, in our view, must come within the excepted category, where the State Government ought to act upon and must take corrective measures to undo the hiatus situation and provide a window to some other institute capable of fulfilling the minimum standards/norms specified by the MCI for the establishment of a new medical college in the concerned locality or within the State. Without any further ado, we are of the view that the appellant-College is a failed institute thus far and is unable to deliver the aspirations of the student community and the public at large to produce more medical personnel on year to year basis as per the spirit behind the issuance of the subject Essentiality Certificate dated 27.08.2014. To this extent, we respectfully depart from the view taken in Chintpurni Medical College (supra). "