Venugopal back as AIIMS director, faculty happy

NEW DELHI : Dr P Venugopal, the sacked director of country ace super-specialty medical institute was reinstated by Supreme Court on Thursday, April 8 after six months of ding- dong legal battle.Dr P Venugopal being greeted in office in All India Institute of Medical Sciences after Supreme Court ordered his reinstatement on Thursday.

A beaming Dr Venugopal, was back on the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) top seat hours after the apex court judgement, sat back on the hot seat triumphantly for a while exchanging pleasantries with the faculty and support staff  and then left for home. 

Dr Venugopal, a noted cardiologist, was unceremoniously removed about six months ago by the Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss who happens to be ex officio chairman of the AIIMS governing board. Venugopal challenged the order in the court which delivered its judgement on April 8. 

Accompanied by senior faculty members and resident doctors, Venugopal, 66, came to the office, sat for a while on the director's chair and left soon after, said Vinod Khaitan, the AIIMS Faculty Association president.

Venugopal, who was involved in a bitter legal battle with Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, was appointed to the post on July 3, 2003, for a five-year term. His term was to end on July 2 this year. However, he was removed in November last year after the government passed a legislation limiting the tenure of the director to a maximum of five years or till they reach the retirement age of 65, whichever is earlier.

The Health Ministry was mum on Venugopal resuming charge. The detailed court verdict is to be released on April 12 but Khaitan, a known Venugopal supporter, said the cardiologist confirmed that "he has already assumed charge."

''He signed official papers. We don't want to go into details,'' he said, when queried as to how Venugopal could resume charge without an official intimation. ''It is a moment of celebration. We are relishing the moment. We are going to celebrate Diwali today and there will be fireworks,'' said Khaitan. 

Justices Tarun Chatterjee and H.S. Bedi said it was evident that the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, and the Post Graduate Institute for Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh (Amendment) Act, 2007 was enacted with the sole purpose to target the cardiologist.

The bench described as ''malafide and unconstitutional'' the union government's law to fix the retirement age of the AIIMS director at 65 years.

Ramadoss not to quit

Speaking to reporters about the judgement, Ramadoss said he is shocked by the verdict as he had never expected it. He however added that there is no question of his resigning over the verdict. He said that he would decide the future Ramadoss course of action after studying the apex court order. 

The judgement gave Central Government a major jolt as the apex court struck down the law that enabled premature retirement of Venugopal as Director after a raging row with Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss.

A bench of Justices Tarun Chatterjee and H S Bedi upheld the appeal filed by Venugopal challenging the impugned law as being discriminatory and malafidely brought to retire him.

Venugopal had contended that the amendment was brought with the sole purpose of removing him from his office due to his differences with Ramadoss. The amendment relating to the AIIMS Act fixed the upper age of retirement of Director at 65 years 
leading to Venugopal's retirement.

Senior counsel and former law minister Arun Jaitely had contended on behalf of Venugopal that the Act was illegal as the High Court had in March last year upheld his continuation in the post and the matter was pending in the apex court. 

But the Centre in the meantime brought the amendment in Parliament, he said. 

The case came up before the Supreme Court on December 3 last year after an intense row marked with bitterness between Venugopal and Ramadoss.

The apex court, while admitting Venugopal's petition, had expressed displeasure over his removal and described it as ''unfortunate''.

''Why such a reputed person is humiliated in this way?'' the court had asked the Government, while questioning the motive behind bringing an amendment in the AIIMS Act, when Venugopal's tenure as Director was coming to an end after six months on 
July 2 this year.

The court, however, expressed ''difficulty'' in staying the operation of the law passed by Parliament at that time.

The Government, on the other hand, had defended the legislation saying that malice could not be attributed to Parliament for making the law to evolve a policy, and maintained that there was no discrimination against any individual.

The Government had further contended that it was merely addressing the directive of the Delhi High Court for removing the ''ambiguity'' in the appointment of the Director by making statute.

The AIIMS faculty has now demanded Ramadoss's resignation. 

BJP demands sacking of Ramadoss 

The BJP has demanded sacking of Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss in the wake of Supreme Court striking down a law which ensured the exit of AIIMS Director Dr P Venugopal.

Besides demanding sacking of the embattled Health Minister, the party also targetted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for ''failing'' to protect the premier institute of national importance.

''I demand the resignation of Ramadoss and if he is not resigning I want the Prime Minister to dismiss him forthwith,'' senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj told reporters here.

She described the Supreme Court's ruling as the ''defeat of Ramadoss and his malafide intentions and the defeat of the Prime Minister and his government.'' ''The Supreme Court striking down the AIIMS Amendment Act has established that Health Minister Ramadoss' intention was malafide and dishonest,'' she said.

She said the apex court's ruling has established that the Health Minister has ''misused'' the Parliament for satisfying his personal ego. 



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