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Grant Of Essentiality Certificate By State Government To Establish Medical College Is Not Simply A Ministerial Act: Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
24 Feb 2021 12:41 PM GMT
Grant Of Essentiality Certificate By State Government To Establish Medical College Is Not Simply A Ministerial Act:  Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court held that grant of Essentiality Certificate by the State Government and Consent of Affiliation by the University is not simply a ministerial act.The court held that essentiality Certificate is mandatorily required by a person before he receives permission for establishment of a Medical College.The State Government has power to withdraw the EC where it is obtained by...

The Supreme Court held that grant of Essentiality Certificate by the State Government and Consent of Affiliation by the University is not simply a ministerial act.

The court held that essentiality Certificate is mandatorily required by a person before he receives permission for establishment of a Medical College.

The State Government has power to withdraw the EC where it is obtained by playing fraud on it or where the very substratum on which the EC was granted vanishes or any other reason of like nature, the bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari observed.

The issue in this appeal filed by V.N. Public Health And Educational Trust were (i) whether the Essentiality Certificate ('EC') and Consent of Affiliation ('CoA') should be granted for the year 2020-2021 to the  V.N. Public Health And Educational Trust (ii) Whether grant of Essentiality Certificate by the State Government is only a Ministerial Act? (iii) Whether Essentiality Certificate, once issued, can be withdrawn? The Division Bench of the Kerala High Court had refused to grant permission to the Trust to start the Medical College for the Academic Year 2020-2021 and gave time bound directions to the State and the University to jointly carry out an inspection to see whether Essentiality Certificate could be issued and whether consent for Affiliation could be given for 2021-22.

The Trust's contention was that the issue of Essentiality Certificate is a ministerial job and the purpose of EC is limited to certify to the Central Government that it is essential to establish a Medical College. Since it was issued EC by the State Government and also CoA by the University in the year 2015 itself, therefore, it was entitled for the same in 2020 as well. On the other hand, the State contended that the State Government not only has to also to verify and certify that the norms of Medical Council of India are satisfied by the Trust and that infrastructure and other clinical materials are sufficiently available for setting up a new Medical College. 

EC is mandatorily required by a person before he receives permission for establishment of a Medical College

To address these contentions, the bench referred to relevant provisions of the Medical Council of India Act, 1956 and Medical Council of India Establishment of Medical College Regulations, 1999. The court noted:

Thus, an EC is mandatorily required by a person before he receives permission for establishment of a Medical College. The Legislative scheme that imposes the requirement of the EC is prescribed in Section 10(A) of the Medical Council of India Act, which requires the previous permission of the Central Government for establishing a Medical College or opening a new course of study or training. Every person or Medical College must submit to the Central Government a scheme as prescribed. The Central Government then refers the scheme to the MCI for its recommendations. The Medical Council is required to consider the same and satisfy itself by obtaining any particulars as are necessary and after having the defects if any removed, make its recommendations to the Central Government. The Central Government, may on receipt of the scheme, approve it conditionally or disapprove the same.
The power to permit the establishment of a Medical College is thus conferred on the Central Government by the MCI Act. The Regulations referred above, were framed in exercise of powers conferred under Section 10(A) read with Section 33 of the MCI Act prescribed the qualifying criteria. These criteria lay down the eligibility to apply for permission to establish a Medical College. One of the criteria is that the person who is desirous of establishing a Medical College should obtain an Essentiality Certificate as prescribed in Form 2 of the Regulations, certifying that the State Government/Union Territory Administration has no objection for the establishment of the proposed Medical College at the proposed site and availability of adequate clinical material. Thus, the State Government is required to certify that it has decided to issue an Essentiality Certificate for the establishment of a Medical College with a specified number of seats in public interest and further such establishment is feasible.

Grant of EC/CoA cannot be said to be merely a ministerial act

The court observed that the Essentiality Certificate in the prescribed form is crucial for avoiding cases where the colleges despite grant of initial permission could not provide the infrastructure, teaching and other facilities as a result whereof the students who had already been admitted suffered serious prejudice. Rejecting the Trust's contention that the grant of EC is just a ministerial act, the court observed thus:

"Medical Council of India Regulations as well as Kerala University Health Sciences Statutes very emphatically mandate that the consent of affiliation can only be given after the Institution fulfills the essential requirements. The contention of the Appellant that the absence of Essentiality Certificate is not one of the factors for consideration and is extraneous to the decision-making process cannot be accepted. Whilst granting the Essentiality Certificate, the State Government undertakes to take over the obligations of the private educational institution in the event of that institution becoming incapable of setting of the institution or imparting education therein. Such an undertaking on the part of the State Government is unequivocal and unambiguous. An Essentiality Certificate by the State Government legitimizes a medical college declaring it fit to impart medical education and gives accouchement to the expectation amongst the stakeholders that the Applicant College shall fulfill basic norms specified by the MCI to start and operate a medical college. Bearing in mind that the question of justified existence of a college and irregular/illegal functioning of an existing college belong to a different order of things and cannot be mixed up. We come to the conclusion that the issuance/re-issuances of an essentiality certificate is not in any way a ministerial job and while dealing with a case of maintaining standards in a professional college, strict approach must be adopted as these colleges are responsible for ensuring that medical graduate has the required skill set to work as a doctor in the country. Poor assessment system; exploding number of medical colleges; shortage of patients/clinical materials; devaluation of merit in admission, particularly in private institutions; increasing capitation fees; a debilitated assessment and accreditation system, are problems plaguing our Medical Education system. Allowing such deficient colleges to continue to function jeopardizes the future of the student community and leading to incompetent doctors to graduate from such colleges and ultimately pose a bigger risk to the society at large defeating the very purpose of the Essentiality Certificate issued by the State. The State would be deterring from its duty if it did not conduct an inspection from time to time to ensure that the requisite standards as set by the MCI are met before issuing/renewing the Essentiality certificate. That is by no stretch of imagination 'merely a ministerial job'. Considering especially that while issuing the Essentiality Certificate the State Govt undertakes that should the Medical College fail to provide the requisite infrastructure and fresh admissions are stopped by the Central Government, the State Government shall take over the responsibility of the students already admitted in the College. Same is the position with respect of CoA by the University. The First Statute of KUHS prescribes that University may appoint a Commission to inspect the proposed site to make a physical verification of the existing facilities and suitability of proposed site. The grant of affiliation is dependent upon fulfillment of all the conditions that are specified in Clause X(I) of First Statues or that may be specified which includes staff, infrastructure facility, hospital, internet, library, playground, hostel, etc. Thus, even grant of CoA by the University also cannot be said to be merely a ministerial act."

State Government has power to withdraw the EC 

Another contention raised by the Trust was that the State does not have the power to withdraw the EC once granted and once issued, the same shall remain valid. Reliance was placed on some observations made in the decision in Chintpurni Medical College & Hospital & Anr. Vs. State of Punjab & Ors. Referring to a subsequent decision in Sukh Sagar Medical College and Hospital Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh, the bench observed:

"Let us make it clear that there can be no analogy drawn between the facts of Chintpurni case (Supra) and the present case. The Sukh Sagar Case (Supra) actually expanded the circumstances in which the State Government may withdraw the EC. The dictum of Sukh Sagar (Supra) actually supports the case of respondents. The law thus stand settled that the State Government has power to withdraw the EC where it is obtained by playing fraud on it or where the very substratum on which the EC was granted vanishes or any other reason of like nature

Dismissing the appeal, the bench said that the State Government of the University cannot be directed to issue EC or CoA to the appellant for the year 2020-2021.

Case: V.N. Public Health And Educational Trust vs. State of Kerala [CIVIL APPEAL NOS.703-704 OF 2021]
Coram: Justices AM Khanwilkar, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari
Counsel: Sr. Adv Shyam Divan, Sr. Adv Jaideep Gupta
Citation: LL 2021 SC 109

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