Breaking ; Maintainability of Writ under Article 32; Conflicting Judgments of Two SC Benches of Co-equal Strength in two weeks time [Read the Judgment]

Breaking ; Maintainability of Writ under Article 32; Conflicting Judgments of Two SC Benches of Co-equal Strength in two weeks time [Read the Judgment]

In a judgment apparently contradictory to the view taken by another bench of co-equal strength in DM Wayanad Institute of medical sciences vs. Union of India and Another (wherein it was held that the Supreme Court under Article 32 will not interfere with an administrative order where the constitutionality of the statute or the order made thereunder is not challenged on the ground of contravention of Fundamental Rights), a bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices Anil R. Dave and Kurian Joseph,  in Sree Balaji Medical College and Hospital and another v. Union of India and another- a decision rendered today,  has overruled the submission of the Medical Council of India opposing the maintainability of the said writ petition relying on the earlier cited decision in DM Wayanad  and held that there was no substance in the submission.

In DM Wayanad Institute of medical sciences vs. Union of India and Another the Supreme Court had held:

“27.  Under Article 32 of the Constitution, this Court is  not  supposed  to go into finding of facts recorded by  the  authorities  and  to  come  to  a different  conclusion.  Moreover,  having  regard  to   he  law  settled  by Constitution Bench of this Court in number of decisions, in  our  considered opinion, the rights so  claimed  by  the  petitioners  are  not  fundamental rights; hence the same cannot be agitated directly before this  Court  under Article 32 of the Constitution.”

In DM Wayanad Institute of medical sciences a Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices M.Y. Eqbal and Arun Mishra had delivered the above ruling while considering two connected writ petitions filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India challenging the refusal of the Medical Council of India (MCI) to recommend the renewal of permission for admitting students for the academic year 2015-16 in the MBBS Course of the petitioner institutes and the consequent refusal of the Union Government to renew such permission.

In the judgment rendered today, the Bench of Justices Anil R. Dave and Kurian Joseph was considering a case wherein the  petitioner  medical  college  was  granted permission to establish a new medical  college  and  it  was  recognized  by Notification dated 17.02.2009. As per Order dated  15.07.2013,  the  petitioner  was  given  permission  to increase the seats for M.B.B.S. from 100 to 150  for  the  Academic  Session 2013-2015.

The petitioner-medical college submitted  an  application  dated  25.09.2013 for permission to increase the admission capacity from 150 to  250  for  the Academic Session 2014-2015. In that regard, they  have  also  filed  a  writ petition before the Madras High Court leading to Judgment  dated  29.04.2014. The  Central  Government  was  directed  to   consider   the application of the petitioner  and  pass  orders  on  merits  on  or  before 31.05.2014. The writ appeal filed by the  Medical  Council  of  India  was dismissed by Judgment dated 09.06.2014 in Writ Appeal No. 728 of  2014.  The Medical Council of India  approached  the Supreme  Court  which directed that the application  filed  by  the  applicant  to  the  Medical Council of India for getting additional seats for 2014-15 be treated as one for the  academic  year  2015-2016 instead of 2014-15. The Medical Council of India was further directed to complete the inspection  of  the applicant-College before 31st October, 2014.

The Medical Council of India thereafter filed an interlocutory application for modification  of the Court’s order dated 18.07.2014 contending that only if the intake of 150  (increased strength of 50) is recognized by the Central  Government,  the  request  for further increase can be considered. On 17.10.2014, the Apex Court directed  the Medical Council of India to  complete  the  inspection  in  respect  of  the application for the intake of 250 students by 15.11.2014.  Accordingly,  the inspection was conducted and the report submitted.  The Medical Council of India and the  Central  Government fairly admitted that the petitioner-medical  college  satisfies  all  the  requirements  for increase of admission capacity from 150 to 250, as per  the  report.

Thereafter  the Medical Council of India, it its Meeting held on  20.11.2014,  decided  that “…  since  Sree  Balaji  Medical  College  and  Hospital,  Chennai  is   not recognized for 150 admissions, it is not eligible for further increase  from 150 to 250 as per the  earlier  decision  dated  14.03.2014.” The decision dated 14.03.2014 was one taken by the Committee not to  increase the strength  in  any  medical  college  unless  the  existing  strength  is recognized by the Central Government.

The Apex Court which was considering the petitioner’s challenge to the said order held that there was no legal basis for taking such a decision as “the Act does not  provide  for  recognition  of the admission capacity in a recognized  medical  college  for  a  recognized course.”

The Court further said: “The regulations, “The Opening of a New or Higher Course of Study  or Training (including Post-graduate Course of Study or Training) and  Increase of Admission Capacity in any Course or Study or Training (including a  Post-graduate Course of Study or Training)  Regulations,  2000”,  also  does  not contemplate such a requirement. Therefore, there is no legal basis for the decision dated 14.03.2014 and it is only to be ignored.”

The Court said it seen from the from the pleadings that in case of two medical colleges  (1) S.P. Medical College,  Bikaner,  Rajasthan  and  (2)  Maulana  Azad  Medical College,  New  Delhi,  permission  was  granted  for  increasing   admission capacity without recognition of the existing  capacity,  as  increased  from time to time.

At this point, the Counsel appearing for the  Medical Council of India  raised  an  objection  regarding  maintainability  of  the petition placing reliance on the recent  Judgment  of  the Apex  Court  in  Writ Petition (Civil) No. 441 of 2015 and connected cases decided on  23.07.2015.

But this was rejected by the Bench as devoid of substance.  Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Kurian Joseph said, “In the  background  of  the facts narrated by us, only this Court could have entertained  the  grievance of the petitioner. Moreover, there are no  disputed  facts  at  all  in  the present case. All the  material  facts  stated  in  the  writ  petition  are admitted. The dispute is only on question of law. The  present  petition  is only in continuation of the earlier proceedings before this Court.”

 However it may be noted that in D.M. Wayanad  case, the Apex Court had said that it is equally well settled that “this Court under Article 32 will not interfere with an administrative order where the constitutionality of the statute or the order made thereunder is not challenged on the ground of contravention of Fundamental Rights. At the same time if the validity of the provisions of statute is challenged on the ground other than the contravention of Fundamental Rights, this Court will not entertain that challenge in a proceeding under Article 32 of the Constitution.”

In DM Wayanad Institute of medical sciences the Supreme Court had referred to the case of J. Fernandes & Co. vs. Dy. Chief Controller of Imports and Exports, (1975) 1 SCC 716, wherein the Apex Court, while considering writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution, observed that a petition under Article 32 will not be competent to challenge any erroneous decision of an authority. A wrong application of law would not amount to a violation of fundamental right. If the provisions of law are good and the orders passed are within the jurisdiction of the authorities, there is no infraction of fundamental right if the authorities are right or wrong on facts.

Thus it seems that the judgment rendered today in Sree Balaji Medical College and Hospital and another v. Union of India and another goes against the dictum laid down by another Bench of co-equal strength of the Apex Court in DM Wayanad Institute of medical sciences, and in that view of the matter, given the similarity in issue involved, the judgment has thrown open doors to questions of its correctness especially as to its finding on maintainability of a writ petition under Article 32.

Read the Judgment here.