2019 NearLaw (DelhiHC) Online 176
Delhi High Court

JUSTICE C. HARI SHANKAR

TRAVANCORE MEDICAL COLLEGE Vs. UNION OF INDIA AND ANR.

W.P.(C) 10767/2018 & CM APPL. 41995/2018

11th January 2019

Petitioner Counsel: Mr. Sandeep Sethi Mr. Kaushal Gautam Mr. Shrey Vardhan Ms. Ekta Singh
Respondent Counsel: Ms. Monika Arora Mr. Kaushal Kumar Mr. Praveen Singh Mr. Vikas Singh Mr. T. Singhdev Ms. Amandeep Kaur Ms. Puja Sarkar Mr. Tarun Verma Mr. Abhijit Chakravarty

Noting, initially, that Consent of Affiliation had been granted by the KUHS for a lesser number of seats that the number for which the petitioner applied, the BOG distinguished the cases, referred to in the communication, dated 10th August, 2018 (supra) of the Department of Health and Family Welfare, on the ground that, in the said cases, Essentiality Certificate and/or Consent of Affiliation, issued by the State Government and the University, respectively, was submitted along with the applications, though they were not in the prescribed format as provided in the statutory Regulations.
It was noted that it was in these circumstances that an opportunity was afforded, to the said applicants, to re-submit the documents in the prescribed format, in accordance with the Regulations of the MCI As against these, it was noted that the petitioner had applied without the requisite Consent of Affiliation from the KUHS Relying on the judgments of the Supreme Court in Royal Medical Trust v UOI, (2015) 10 SCC 19, Educare Charitable Trust v UOI, (2013) 16 SCC 474, D Y Patil Medical College v MCI, (2015) 10 SCC 51, MCI v VN Public Health and Education Trust (2016) 11 SCC 216, Poonaiyah Ramajayam Institute of Science and Technology Trust v MCI, (2015) 10 SCC 83 and the order, dated 21st April, 2017, of the Supreme Court in WP (C) 178/2017 (KPC Medical College v UOI), it was observed that the time schedules stipulated in the 2000 Regulations for submission of the application with all requisite documents, was sacrosanct, and could not be violated.
It was also noted that, in its judgment in Ashish Ranjan v UOI, (2016) 11 SCC 225, the Supreme Court had approved the said time schedule, which was set out, in the following tabular form, in the said communication:
Keeping in view the above mentioned judgements/directions passed by the Honble Supreme Court as well as the Statutory Regulations and the time schedule prescribed in the Regulations; the Board of Governors in supersession of the Medical Council of India, decided that the representation dated 02.11.18 of the College Authorities seeking processing of its applications along with inspections, with respect to applications, to start post graduate courses in General Surgery, Paediatrics, Orthopaedics, Dermatology and Radio-diagnosis for the academic year 2019-20, u/s 10A of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 on the strength of Consent of Affiliation issued by Kerala University of Health Sciences on 03.09.18, cannot be acceded to.
The short issue that arises for consideration is, therefore, whether the MCI was justified in rejecting the petitioners application, submitted on 4th April, 2018, vide the impugned communication, dated 14th November, 2018, on the ground that the application was not accompanied with the requisite Consent of Affiliation, from the KUHS
It is not necessary to enter into the factual matrix of the said case, in view of the following clear renunciation of the law, as contained in para 7 of the report: It is a matter of anguish that despite various decisions of this Court and laying down of a time schedule for completion of admission process, the time schedule has not been adhered to at various stages by various authorities resulting in otherwise avoidable discontentment and hardship to the candidates.
Proceeding, thereafter, to set out the prescribed time-frame, from the time of receipt of applications for establishment of new dental colleges, till issue of Letter of Permission by the Central Government (which spanned the period from 1st August of the first till 15th July of the next), the Supreme Court went on, in paras 16 and 17 of the report, to enunciate the law, regarding sanctity of the prescribed time schedule, in the following words:
Letters Patent Appeal, preferred thereagainst, by the MCI was, however, also allowed, by the Division Bench (relying on Educare (supra)), vide judgment dated 17th April, 2015, resulting in DY Patil moving the Supreme Court by way of SLP
In para 13 of its report, the Supreme Court took note of the fact that the time schedule which has statutory force, had been ordered to be strictly adhered to, by a plethora of decisions earlier rendered by it.
Before the Division Bench of the High Court, the MCI contended that, though the Central Government had, on 23rd December, 2015, asked the MCI to review its recommendation, it was not possible to accede to the request, in view of the time schedule fixed in that regard, which required the MCI to give the recommendation to the Central Government for issue of Letter of Intent by 15th December, 2015.
The Court dwelled upon the principles stated in Educare Charitable Trust v Union of India, (2013) 16 SCC 474 : AIR 2014 SC 902], Royal Medical Trust v Union of India, (2015) 10 SCC 19 and various other decisions and, after analysing the scheme of the Act, has held: (DY Patil Medical College case, SCC p.
Subject to the above caveat, the writ petition stands dismissed with no order as to costs.

Cases Cited :
Paras 11, 17, 27, 32, 36: Royal Medical Trust Vs. U.O.I., (2015) 10 SCC 19
Paras 11, 17, 22, 26, 29, 36: Educare Charitable Trust Vs. U.O.I., (2013) 16 SCC 474 : AIR 2014 SC 902
Paras 11, 17, 29, 33, 36: D. Y. Patil Medical College Vs. M.C.I., (2015) 10 SCC 51
Paras 11, 17, 34: M.C.I. Vs. V.N. Public Health and Education Trust (2016) 11 SCC 216
Paras 11, 17, 30, 33: Poonaiyah Ramajayam Institute of Science and Technology Trust Vs. M.C.I., (2015) 10 SCC 83 : (2014) 14 SCC 675
Paras 11, 17: KPC Medical College Vs. U.O.I., WP (C) 178/2017
Paras 11, 17: Ashish Ranjan Vs. U.O.I., (2016) 11 SCC 225
Para 11: Govt. of A.P. Vs. Medwin Educational Society, (2004) 1 SCC 86
Paras 11, 17, 19: Dental Council of India Vs. S.R.M. Institute of Science and Technology, (2004) 9 SCC 676
Paras 17, 20, 21, 27: Mridul Dhar (minor) Vs. U.O.I., (2005) 2 SCC 65
Paras 17, 21: Priya Gupta Vs. State of Chhattisgarh, (2012) 7 SCC 433
Para 21: Neelu Arora Vs. Union of India [(2003) 3 SCC 366]

JUDGEMENT

Facts

1. Section 10A of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 (hereinafter referred to as “the IMC Act”), deals with grant of permission for establishment of a new medical college or a new course of study, and reads thus:

“10.A Permission for establishment of new medical college, new course of study etc. –
(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or any other law for the time being in force: –
(a) no person shall establish a medical college; or
(b) no medical college shall –
(i) open a new or higher course of study or training (including a postgraduate course of study or training) which would enable a student of such course or training to qualify himself for the award of any recognised medical qualification; or
(ii) increase its admission capacity in any course of study or training (including a postgraduate course of study or training), except with the previous permission of the Central Government obtained in accordance with the provisions of this section.
Explanation 1 –. For the purposes of this section, "person" includes any University or a trust but does not include the Central Government.
Explanation 2. – For the purposes of this section "admission capacity" in relation to any course of study or training (including postgraduate course of study or training) in a medical college, means the maximum number of students that may be fixed by the Council from time to time for being admitted to such course or training.
(2) (a) Every person or medical college shall, for the purpose of obtaining permission under sub-section (1), submit to the Central Government a scheme in accordance with the provisions of clause (b) and the central Government shall refer the scheme to the Council for its recommendations.
(b) The Scheme referred to in clause (a) shall be in such form and contain such particulars and be preferred in such manner and be accompanied with such fee as may be prescribed.
(3) On receipt of a scheme by the Council under sub-section (2) the Council may obtain such other particulars as may be considered necessary by it from the person or the medical college concerned, and thereafter, it may –
(a) if the scheme is defective and does not contain any necessary particulars, give a reasonable opportunity to the person or college concerned for making a written representation and it shall be open to such person or medical college to rectify the defects, if any, specified by the Council;
(b) consider the scheme, having regard to the factors referred to in sub-section (7) and submit the scheme together with its recommendations thereon to the Central Government.
(4) The Central Govt. may after considering the scheme and the recommendations of the Council under sub-section (3) and after obtaining, where necessary, such other particulars as may be considered necessary by it from the person or college concerned, and having regard to the factors referred to in sub-section (7), either approve (with such conditions, if any, as it may consider necessary ) or disapprove the scheme, and any such approval shall be a permission under sub-section (1):
Provided that no scheme shall be disapproved by the Central Government except after giving the person or college concerned a reasonable opportunity of being heard; Provided further that nothing in this sub section shall prevent any person or medical college whose scheme has not been approved by the Central Government to submit a fresh scheme and the provisions of this section shall apply to such scheme, as if such scheme has been submitted for the first time under sub-section (1).
(5) Where, within a period of one year from the date of submission of the scheme to the Central Government under sub-section (1), no order passed by the Central Government has been communicated to the person or college submitting the scheme, such scheme shall be deemed to have been approved by the Central Government in the form in which it had been submitted, and accordingly, the permission of the Central Government required under sub-section (1) shall also be deemed to have been granted.
(6) In computing the time-limit specified in sub-section (5), the time taken by the person or college concerned submitting the scheme, in furnishing any particulars called for by the Council, or by the Central Government, shall be excluded.
(7) The Council, while making its recommendations under clause (b) of sub-section (3) and the Central Government, while passing an order, either approving or disapproving the scheme under sub-section (4), shall have due regard to the following factors, namely –
(a) whether the proposed medical college or the existing medical college seeking to open a new or higher course of study or training, would be in a position to offer the minimum standards of medical education as prescribed by the Council under section 19A or, as the case may be under section 20 in the case of postgraduate medical education;
(b) whether the person seeking to establish a medical college or the existing medical college seeking to open a new or higher course of study or training or to increase it admission capacity has adequate financial resources;
(c) whether necessary facilities in respect of staff, equipment, accommodation, training and other facilities to ensure proper functioning of the medical college or conducting the new course or
study or training or accommodating the increased admission capacity, have been provided or would be provided within the time-limit specified in the scheme;
(d) whether adequate hospital facilities, having regard to the number or students likely to attend such medical college or course of study or training or as a result of the increased admission capacity, have been provided or would be provided within the time-limit specified in the scheme;
(e) whether any arrangement has been made or programme drawn to impart proper training to students likely to attend such medical college or course of study or training by persons having the recognised medical qualifications;
(f) the requirement of manpower in the field of practice of medicine; and
(g) any other factors as may be prescribed.
(8) Where the Central Government passes an order either approving or disapproving a scheme under this section, a copy of the order shall be communicated to the person or college concerned.”

2. Section 33 of the IMC Act confers, on the Medical Council of India (hereinafter referred to as “the MCI”), the power to make regulations, with the previous sanction of the Central Government, to carry out the purposes of the IMC Act. In exercise of the said power, the MCI framed the Postgraduate Medical Education Regulations, 2000, Regulations 6 and 8 which governs grant of permission to start postgraduate courses, and their recognition. Under the said Regulations, the petitioner-College was granted permission, by the Central Government and the MCI, on 13th July, 2009, to establish a medical college running the MBBS course, w.e.f. the 2009-2010 academic session.

3. In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 10A of the IMC Act, read with Section 33 thereof, the MCI also framed 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 of Study or Training (including a Postgraduate Course of Study or Training) Regulations, 2000 (hereinafter referred to as “the 2000 Regulations”), which came into effect on 14th August, 2000. Regulation 3, thereof, stipulates the “qualifying criteria” which are required to be fulfilled by any medical college/institution, in order to enable it to open a new or higher course of study or training (including a post-graduate course of study or training). Clause 3.3, thereunder, reads thus:

“3.3 The Consent of Affiliation in the prescribed format with respect to opening of New or Higher Course of Study or Training (including Post Graduate Course of Study or Training) and Increase of Admission Capacity in any Course of Study or Training (Including a Post Graduate Course of Study or Training) has been obtained by the medical college/institution from the University to which it is affiliated.”

4. On 4th April, 2018, the petitioner submitted an online application for starting of post-graduate courses in various clinical branches, for each of which the petitioner had to pay Rs 4 lakhs, working out to a total of Rs 26 lakhs. The deadline for submitting the said application, it may be noted, was 5th April, 2018. The petitioner also enclosed, with the application, a letter, dated 4th April, 2018, issued by the Kerala University of Health Sciences (hereinafter referred to as “KUHS”), which read thus:

“No. ACI/Med/B1/1383/2018 Dated: 04/04/2018
TO WHOMSOEVER IT MAY CONCERN
This is to certify that the Travancore Medical College, Kollam has submitted applications for starting/enhancement of seats of the following Medical PG/Super Speciality courses during the year 2019-2020.
S. No. Name of course Proposed seats New course/En-hancement
1. MD Dermatology, Venerology and leprosy 2 New course
2. MD Oto Rhino Laryngology 2 New course
3. MD paediatrics 6 New course
4. MS General Surgery 12 New course
5. MD Radio Diagnosis 4 New course
6. MS Orthopaedics 6 New course
The applications submitted by the college are under processing. Consent of Affiliation to the above-mentioned courses will be issued only after conducting inspection and satisfactory report of the Scrutiny Committee.
Registrar”

5. Be it noted, here, that, though Mr. Sandeep Sethi, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the petitioner had applied, to the KUHS, for grant of consent for affiliation, on 18th January, 2018, the said fact does not find mention in the writ petition, as Mr. Vikas Singh, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the MCI points out. Be that as it may, the afore- extracted communication, dated 4th April, 2018, from the KUHS, does indicate that the petitioner had applied, for grant of consent for affiliation, to the KUHS, prior to the said date, and that, on the said date, the application was pending consideration with the KUHS.

6. It appears that the MCI wrote, regarding the petitioners application, to the Central Government that, as the application was incomplete, for want of grant of consent for affiliation by the KUHS, the application merited rejection. The Department of Health and Family Welfare responded, vide communication dated 10th August, 2018, addressed to the MCI, which read as under:

“No. U. 12012/73/2018-ME-I (FTS-3170107)
Government of India
Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (Department of Health & Family Welfare)
Nirman Bhavan, New Delhi-110011
Dated the 10th August, 2018
To
The Secretary,
Medical Council of India,
Pocket-14, Sector-8, Dwarka
New Delhi-75
Sub: Starting/Increase of PG (Broad Speciality) courses at various medical colleges for the academic year 2019-20–reg.
Madam,
I am directed to say that MCI has recommended disapproval/returned PG (Broad Speciality) applications in respect of various courses of medical colleges on grounds such as non-submission of Consent of Affiliation (COa), wrong nomenclatures in COA, non-payment of fees and adjustment of fees etc.
2. As per section 10A(3) of IMC Act, 1956, MCI on receipt of a scheme, is required to give an opportunity to the applicant to rectify deficiencies if any in such applications. However, it appears that MCI has not given an opportunity to the applicant before returning the scheme(s) to the Central Government. From the communications received from MCI in respect of UC applications (2019-20), it is observed that MCI has written to the applicant colleges to rectify the deficiencies in their applications MCI letter No MCI-34 (41) (E-30)/2018-Med./126337 dated 31.07.18 and R No MCI-34 (41) (E-20)/2018-Med./126357 dated 31.07.18 may be referred (copies enclosed).
3. MCI is, therefore, requested to give a similar opportunity to PG applicants also. Recommendations received from MCI in the original are returned for doing the needful.
Yours faithfully,
(D.V.K. Rao)
Under Secretary to the Government of India
Tel No: 011-23061120
Encl: As above
Copy to: The Secretary, Supreme Court Mandated Oversight Committee on MCI, National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, Academics Block, 2nd Floor, Baba Gang Nath Marg Munirka, New Delhi-110067.

7. Mr. Sandeep Sethi points out that the MCI did not comply with the directive contained the afore-extracted communication, dated 10th August, 2018, from the Department of Health and Family Welfare.

8. On 3rd September, 2018, the KUHS communicated, to the petitioner, its grant of Consent of Affiliation to it. This was forwarded, in turn, by the petitioner, to the MCI, on the very next day, i.e. 4th September, 2018.

9. Vide ordinance dated 26th September, 2018, promulgated by the Hon’ble President of India, the pre-existing MCI was superseded by a Board of Governors (hereinafter referred to as “the BOG”). Juristically speaking, therefore, the BOG continued to represent, to all intents and purposes, the MCI.

10. It appears that the petitioner, at this stage, moved this Court, by way of W.P.(C) 10767/2018, which was disposed of, vide order dated 31st October, 2018, granting liberty to the petitioner to make representation to the BOG. The petitioner, accordingly, addressed a representation, pursuant to the said direction, to the BOG, on 2nd November, 2018, which was taken up for consideration by the BOG its meeting held on 11th November, 2018.

11. The BOG, in its meeting dated 11th November, 2018, rejected the application of the petitioner. Noting, initially, that Consent of Affiliation had been granted by the KUHS for a lesser number of seats that the number for which the petitioner applied, the BOG distinguished the cases, referred to in the communication, dated 10th August, 2018 (supra) of the Department of Health and Family Welfare, on the ground that, in the said cases, Essentiality Certificate and/or Consent of Affiliation, issued by the State Government and the University, respectively, was submitted along with the applications, though they were not in the prescribed format as provided in the statutory Regulations. It was noted that it was in these circumstances that an opportunity was afforded, to the said applicants, to re-submit the documents in the prescribed format, in accordance with the Regulations of the MCI. As against these, it was noted that the petitioner had applied without the requisite Consent of Affiliation from the KUHS. Relying on the judgments of the Supreme Court in Royal Medical Trust v. U.O.I., (2015) 10 SCC 19, Educare Charitable Trust v. U.O.I., (2013) 16 SCC 474, D. Y. Patil Medical College v. M.C.I., (2015) 10 SCC 51, M.C.I. v. V.N. Public Health and Education Trust (2016) 11 SCC 216, Poonaiyah Ramajayam Institute of Science and Technology Trust v. M.C.I., (2015) 10 SCC 83 and the order, dated 21st April, 2017, of the Supreme Court in WP (C) 178/2017 (KPC Medical College v. U.O.I.), it was observed that the time schedules stipulated in the 2000 Regulations for submission of the application with all requisite documents, was sacrosanct, and could not be violated. It was also noted that, in its judgment in Ashish Ranjan v. U.O.I., (2016) 11 SCC 225, the Supreme Court had approved the said time schedule, which was set out, in the following tabular form, in the said communication:

S. No. State of Processing Last Date
1. Receipt of applications by the Central Government Between 15th March to 7th April (both days inclusive of any year)
2. Forwarding application by the Central Government to MCI By 15th April
3. Technical Scrutiny, assessment and Recommendations for letter of Permission by the MCI By 30th September
4. Receipt of Reply/compliance from the applicant by the Central Government and for personal hearing thereto, if any, and forwarding of compliance by the Central Government to the MCI Two months from receipt of recommendation from MCI but not be on 15th November
5. Final recommendations for the letter for Permission by the MCI By 31st January
6. Issue of Letter for permission by the Central Government. By 28th February
Incomplete/defective applications, the communication noted, were liable to be rejected, as held by the Supreme Court in Govt. of A.P. v. Medwin Educational Society, (2004) 1 SCC 86 and Dental Council of India v. S.R.M. Institute of Science and Technology, (2004) 9 SCC 676. The order concluded, therefore, thus:
“Keeping in view the above mentioned judgements/directions passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court as well as the Statutory Regulations and the time schedule prescribed in the Regulations; the Board of Governors in supersession of the Medical Council of India, decided that the representation dated 02.11.18 of the College Authorities seeking processing of its applications along with inspections, with respect to applications, to start post graduate courses in General Surgery, Paediatrics, Orthopaedics, Dermatology and Radio-diagnosis for the academic year 2019-20, u/s 10A of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 on the strength of Consent of Affiliation issued by Kerala University of Health Sciences on 03.09.18, cannot be acceded to. It was incumbent upon the medical College to submit applications along with all the documents, as mandated by the Statutory Regulations, including the Consent of Affiliation by Kerala University of Health Sciences by the last date of submitting their applications, i.e. 07.04.2018. The medical College has submitted the Consent of Affiliation as issued by Kerala University of Health Sciences only after the same was issued on 03.09.2018 and so the applications were incomplete as on the last date of submitting their applications i.e. 07.04.2018. The representation dated 02.11.18 of the College Authorities is accordingly rejected.”

12. The writ petition impugns the said communication, dated 14th November, 2018.

13. The short issue that arises for consideration is, therefore, whether the MCI was justified in rejecting the petitioner’s application, submitted on 4th April, 2018, vide the impugned communication, dated 14th November, 2018, on the ground that the application was not accompanied with the requisite Consent of Affiliation, from the KUHS.

14. I have heard learned senior Counsel Mr. Sandeep Sethi, and Mr. Vikas Singh, appearing for the rival parties, at length.

15. The submissions of both learned Senior Counsel revolved, essentially, around the various judicial pronouncements, relied upon, by the MCI, while issuing the impugned order. Mr. Sethi would submit that the MCI erred in rejecting the petitioner’s application on the ground that the time periods stipulated in the Regulations were sacrosanct and that, rather, the extant legal position was otherwise. Per contra, Mr. Singh, appearing for the MCI, would seek to contend that a reading of the various authorities on the issue made it clear, beyond pale of doubt, that the MCI could not have accepted the Consent of Affiliation, issued by the KUHS, after the last date, for submission of the applications had expired.

16. The controversy would, therefore, be required to be adjudicated upon, on a holistic reading of the various authorities governing the issue. It would be appropriate to proceed, in this regard, chronologically.

17. Chronologically, the relevant authorities on the issue which have, very helpfully, been annexed, by the MCI, with its counter-affidavit, may be enlisted thus:

(i) Dental Council of India v. S. R. M. Institute of Science and Technology (supra), decided, on 5th April, 2004, by a bench of 2 learned Judges,
(ii) Mridul Dhar (minor) v. U.O.I., (2005) 2 SCC 65, decided, on 12th January, 2005, by a bench of 3 learned Judges,
(iii) Priya Gupta v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2012) 7 SCC 433, decided, on 8th May, 2012, by a bench of 2 learned Judges,
(iv) Educare Charitable Trust (supra), decided, on 17th September, 2013, by a bench of 2 learned Judges,
(v) Royal Medical Trust v. U.O.I. (supra), decided, on 3rd September, 2015, by a bench of 3 learned Judges,
(vi) D. Y. Patil Medical College (supra), decided on 31st August, 2015, by a bench of 2 learned Judges,
(viii) Poonaiyah Ramajayam Institute of Science and Technology Trust (supra), decided, on 17th September, 2015, by a bench of 2 learned Judges,
(ix) Ashish Ranjan (supra), decided on 18th January, 2016, by a bench of 2 learned Judges,
(x) V. N. Public Health and Educational Trust (supra), decided on 18th April, 2016 by a bench of 2 learned Judges, and
(xi) K.P.C. Medical College and Hospital (supra), decided, on 21st April, 2017, by a bench of 3 learned Judges.

18. I proceed, therefore, to examine these authorities, seriatim.

19. Dental Council of India (supra), like the present case, involved an application, of the respondent-Institute in that case (referred to, hereinafter, as “SRMIST”) to start the MDS course in six specialities in its dental college, for the academic year 2003-2004. The applicable regulations required the applicant to apply to the Central Government for permission along with the permission of the State Government, university affiliation and other documentary evidence, including the Essentiality Certificate issued by the State Government. The issue before the Supreme Court was only whether the application, of the SRMIST, could be permitted to be processed in the absence of the Essentiality Certificate. The Supreme Court answered the issue in the negative. The appeal was, however, disposed of by granting permission, to the SRMIST, to produce the Essentiality Certificate, issued by the State Government, within 8 weeks. Inasmuch as it does not squarely address the issue of the extent to which the time schedule, stipulated for submission of the application, and processing thereof at various stages, was binding, this judgment does not really assist in adjudication of the dispute before this Court. It is trite that, before relying on a judgment, even if rendered by the Supreme Court, one is required to take, into consideration the controversy which was engaging the attention of the Supreme Court while delivering the said judgment, as well as the fact-scenario in which the judgment was delivered.

20. Mridula Dhar (supra) was rendered by a bench of three Hon’ble Judges. It is not necessary to enter into the factual matrix of the said case, in view of the following clear renunciation of the law, as contained in para 7 of the report: “It is a matter of anguish that despite various decisions of this Court and laying down of a time schedule for completion of admission process, the time schedule has not been adhered to at various stages by various authorities resulting in otherwise avoidable discontentment and hardship to the candidates. The observance of the time schedule is paramount for effective utilisation to all-India quota of medical and dental seats.”

This decision dealt with the sanctity of the time schedule prescribed in respect of effecting admissions into seats in medical and dental colleges, and was rendered on the premise that non-adherence to the said time schedule caused serious prejudice to the students, as it created uncertainty regarding the status of their candidature, as a result whereof many meritorious students lost out by failing to take admission. The writ petition before me does not deal with the time schedule fixed for admission of students and, accordingly, the judgment in Mridul Dhar (supra), too, cannot aid, to any substantial degree, in adjudicating the controversy in dispute.

21. Priya Gupta (supra), like Mridul Dhar (supra), dealt with the time schedule fixed in respect of admissions to medical and dental courses. However, while emphasising the sanctity of time schedules, a slew of directions were issued by the Supreme Court, which included, inter alia, directions regarding the time schedule fixed in respect of grant of approval for commencement of new courses by a medical or dental colleges. These directions, as contained in para 46, and its various sub-paras in the said judgment, read thus:

“46. Keeping in view the contemptuous conduct of the relevant stakeholders, their cannonade on the rule of merit compels us to state, with precision and esemplastically, the action that is necessary to ameliorate the process of selection. Thus, we issue the following directions in rem for their strict compliance, without demur and default, by all concerned:
46.1. The commencement of new courses or increases in seats of existing courses of MBBS/BDS are to be approved/recognised by the Government of India by 15th July of each calendar year for the relevant academic sessions of that year.
46.2. The Medical Council of India shall, immediately thereafter, issue appropriate directions and ensure the implementation and commencement of admission process within one week thereafter.
46.3. After 15th July of each year, neither the Union of India nor the Medical or Dental Council of India shall issue any recognition or approval for the current academic year. If any such approval is granted after 15th July of any year, it shall only be operative for the next academic year and not in the current academic year. Once the sanction/approval is granted on or before 15th July of the relevant year, the name of that college and all seats shall be included in both the first and the second counselling, in accordance with the Rules.
46.4. Any medical or dental college, or seats thereof, to which the recognition/approval is issued subsequent to 15th July of the respective year shall not be included in the counselling to be conducted by the authority concerned and that college would have no right to make admissions in the current academic year against such seats.
46.5. The admission to the medical or dental colleges shall be granted only through the respective entrance tests conducted by the competitive authority in the State or the body of the private colleges. These two are the methods of selection and grant of admission to these courses. However, where there is a single Board conducting the State examination and there is a single medical college, then in terms of Clause 5.1 of the Medical Council of India Eligibility Certificate Regulations, 2002 the admission can be given on the basis of 10+2 exam marks, strictly in order of merit.
46.6. All admissions through any of the stated selection processes have to be effected only after due publicity and in consonance with the directions issued by this Court. We vehemently deprecate the practice of giving admissions on 30th September of the academic year. In fact, that is the date by which, in exceptional circumstances, a candidate duly selected as per the prescribed selection process is to join the academic course of MBBS/BDS. Under the directions of this Court, second counselling should be the final counselling, as this Court has already held in Neelu Arora v. Union of India [(2003) 3 SCC 366] and third counselling is not contemplated or permitted under the entire process of selection/grant of admission to these professional courses.
46.7. If any seats remain vacant or are surrendered from all-India quota, they should positively be allotted and admission granted strictly as per the merit by 15th September of the relevant year and not by holding an extended counselling. The remaining time will be limited to the filling up of the vacant seats resulting from exceptional circumstances or surrender of seats. All candidates should join the academic courses by 30th September of the academic year.
46.8. No college may grant admissions without duly advertising the vacancies available and by publicising the same through the internet, newspaper, on the notice board of the respective feeder schools and colleges, etc. Every effort has to be made by all concerned to ensure that the admissions are given on merit and after due publicity and not in a manner which is ex facie arbitrary and casts the shadow of favouritism.
46.9. The admissions to all government colleges have to be on merit obtained in the entrance examination conducted by the nominated authority, while in the case of private colleges, the colleges should choose their option by 30th April of the relevant year, as to whether they wish to grant admission on the basis of the merit obtained in the test conducted by the nominated State authority or they wish to follow the merit list/rank obtained by the candidates in the competitive examination collectively held by the nominated agency for the private colleges. The option exercised by 30th April shall not be subject to change. This choice should also be given by the colleges which are anticipating grant of recognition, in compliance with the date specified in these directions.”

22. The facts in Educare Charitable Trust (supra), however, strikingly mirror the facts in the present case. The petitioner in that case (hereinafter referred to as “ECT”), which possessed the requisite Essentiality Certificate as well as Consent of Affiliation issued by the University of Calicut, desire to expand the number of seats, in its BDS program from 50 to 100. At the time of application for permission to effect such expansion, made to the Central Government, ECT did not possess the requisite recognition, of the BDS course, which had to be issued by the Dental Council of India (DCI). Though ECT had applied to the DCI in time, and the DCI had recommended, in its meeting held on 26th November, 2012, that recognition be granted, which was also approved by the General Council of the DCI in its meeting dated 27th /28th November, 2012, recognition was not, in fact, granted before 31st December, 2012, which was the last date for submission of the application. Recognition was, instead, granted only on 7th January, 2013. ECT contended, needless to say, that its claim, for enhancement of the number of seats in its BDS course from 50 to 100, could not be prejudiced owing to the lackadaisical attitude of the DCI in processing its application for grant of recognition. ECT also submitted that, though, as per the time frame fixed in the Schedule to the DCI (Establishment of New Dental Colleges, Opening of New or Higher Course of Study or Training and Increase of Admission Capacity in Dental Colleges) Regulations, 2006 (hereinafter referred to as “the 2006 Regulations”), the last date, for forwarding of its application to the DCI for technical scrutiny, was 31st December, 2012, Note (2) appended to the said Schedule enabled the Central Government to modify the said date in respect of any class or category of applicants. Given the fact that the delay had been occasioned by the DCI, and not by it, the ECT sought to contend that a clear case, for exercise of such discretion, by the Central Government, existed.

23. The High Court, which was moved under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, was not impressed. It proceeded on the reasoning that, as the application, submitted by ECT was not accompanied by the requisite recognition, granted by the DCI, it was not possible for the Central Government to forward the application, to the DCI, for technical scrutiny. Insofar as the discretion available, in Note (2) appended to the Schedule to the Regulations, to modify the said time schedule, was concerned, the High Court opined that, if the Central Government had not chosen to exercise the said discretion, no direction, to it, to do so, could be issued by the High Court.

24. The attempt, of the ECT, to challenge the judgment of the High Court, before the Supreme Court, too, met with no success. After observing, at the outset, that the 2006 Regulations, having been framed by the DCI with the previous approval of the Central Government, in exercise of powers conferred by Section 10A, read with Section 20 of the Dentists Act, 1948, has statutory force, the Supreme Court proceeded, in paras 12 and 13 of the report, to observe thus:

“12. It is clear from the above that Regulation 18 is made subject to Regulation 19. Regulation 19 states, in no uncertain terms, that a dental college “shall qualify to apply under Regulation 18” if the conditions stipulated in Regulation 19 are fulfilled. It clearly follows that a dental college which does not satisfy the conditions laid down in Regulation 19 is not qualified to make an application under Regulation 18. Clause (a) of Regulation 19 lays down a specific condition, namely, existing admission capacity should be recognised.
13. Admittedly, as on the date of application, the petitioner did not have this recognition and thus, it did not fulfil the stipulations contained in clause (a) of Regulation 19. In the absence thereof, it was not qualified to make the application. It, thus, clearly follows that on the date of application i.e. 8-8-2012, the application was incomplete. As per Regulation 20(2) incomplete application or scheme can be returned by the Central Government to the applicant.”

25. Proceeding, thereafter, to set out the prescribed time-frame, from the time of receipt of applications for establishment of new dental colleges, till issue of Letter of Permission by the Central Government (which spanned the period from 1st August of the first till 15th July of the next), the Supreme Court went on, in paras 16 and 17 of the report, to enunciate the law, regarding sanctity of the prescribed time schedule, in the following words:

“16. As per the aforesaid time schedule, the applicant college desirous of increasing the admission capacity is to submit the application from 1st August to 30th September. This was done by the petitioner. However, what was found that the petitioner was not meeting the qualifying criteria as on that date because with respect to existing admission capacity, it had not been recognised so far. The applications are to be forwarded by the Central Government, once they are found to be in order and meeting the qualifying criteria laid down in Regulation 19, by 31st October in respect of BDS course. This time was extended up to 31st December in this year. After an application is forwarded to DCI, DCI is supposed to evaluate the scheme for increasing admission capacity as per the procedure laid down in Regulation 21 which lays down that DCI is required to ascertain the desirability and prima facie feasibility for increasing the admission capacity at the Dental College. It is also required to satisfy itself about the capability of the Dental College to provide necessary resources and infrastructure for the scheme. DCI is even required to conduct physical inspection of the college before forming an opinion as to whether the applicant satisfies the condition of feasibility of increasing the admission capacity. This process, naturally, is time-consuming. As per the time schedule referred to above, time up to 15th June is given for DCI to make recommendation to the Central Government. Such a report containing its recommendation is to be given in terms of Regulation 22. Thereafter, the Central Government is required to go into the said recommendation and if it is found that the applicant college deserves the permission to increase the admission capacity, letter of permission is to be issued by 15th July. This time-frame is to ensure timely admissions of students.
17. Having regard to the above, it is not possible to accede to the request of the petitioner to change the time schedule when the last date for admitting the students, which was 15-7-2013, expired long ago. If the Central Government forwards the application to DCI at this juncture, DCI shall hardly have any time to look into the feasibility of the scheme as per the requirements contained in Regulation 21. We have to keep in mind that in the Schedule annexed to the Regulations 2006, six to eight months' time is given to DCI for this purpose. We are, thus, of the view that the High Court did not commit any error in holding that in the given circumstances mandamus could not be issued to the Central Government to exercise its discretionary powers in a particular manner to modify the time schedule. Sanctity to the time schedule has to be attached. It is too late in the day, insofar as the present academic session is concerned, to give any direction. This Court has highlighted the importance of cut-off date for starting the professional courses, particularly medical courses, and repeatedly impressed upon that such deadline should be tinkered with.” (Emphasis supplied)

26. The principles enunciated in Educare Charitable Trust (supra), unquestionably, would apply, to the facts of the present case as well. As in that case, the 2000 Regulations are statutory nature. The time-schedule prescribed under the Regulations which applied in Educare Charitable Trust (supra) is, more or less, akin to the time-schedule prescribed in the 2000 Regulations. Ex facie, therefore, the judgement in Educare Charitable Trust (supra) would seem to cover the case of the petitioner, against it.

27. Royal Medical Trust (supra) which, like Mridul Dhar (supra), was by a bench of three Hon’ble Judges, challenged disapproval, of applications submitted by various medical colleges, for various purposes, during the academic year 2014-2015, by the MCI, on the ground that there were infirmities and inadequacies in the infrastructure, facilities and faculty of the said colleges. The applicants claimed to have rectified the shortcomings and asked for a reverification, which was refused by the Central Government and the MCI for want of adequate time. This initiated the litigations by the said Colleges, which led, ultimately, to the Supreme Court adjudicating on the issue.

28. The Supreme Court was concerned with the IMC Act and an amendment, in the Schedule to the Establishment of Medical College Regulations, 1999, by the “Establishment of Medical College Regulations (Amendment), 2012” (hereinafter referred to as “the Amendment Regulations”). The Supreme Court expressed its dissatisfaction with the said Amendment Regulations, and opined that the Schedule, fixing the time-periods within which the application was required to be processed at various stages, was required to take care of various factors. The observations of the Supreme Court, as contained in para 31 of the report, in this regard, may be reproduced thus:

“In our view the Schedule must ideally take care of:
(A) Initial assessment of the application at the first level should comprise of checking necessary requirements such as essentiality certificate, consent for affiliation and physical features like land and hospital requirement. If an applicant fails to fulfil these requirements, the application on the face of it, would be incomplete and be rejected. Those who fulfil the basic requirements would be considered at the next stage.
(B) Inspection should then be conducted by the Inspectors of MCI. By very nature such inspection must have an element of surprise. Therefore sufficient time of about three to four months ought to be given to MCI to cause inspection at any time and such inspection should normally be undertaken latest by January. Surprise inspection would ensure that the required facilities and infrastructure are always in place and not borrowed or put in temporarily.
(C) Intimation of the result or outcome of the inspection would then be communicated. If the infrastructure and facilities are in order, the medical college concerned should be given requisite permission/renewal. However, if there are any deficiencies or shortcomings, MCI must, after pointing out the deficiencies, grant to the college concerned sufficient time to report compliance.
(D) If compliance is reported and the applicant states that the deficiencies stand removed, MCI must cause compliance verification. It is possible that such compliance could be accepted even without actual physical verification but that assessment be left entirely to the discretion of MCI and the Central Government. In cases where actual physical verification is required, MCI and the Central Government must cause such verification before the deadline.
(E) The result of such verification if positive in favour of the medical college concerned, the applicant ought to be given requisite permission/renewal. But if the deficiencies still persist or had not been removed, the applicant will stand disentitled so far as that academic year is concerned.”
The Supreme Court found that the Amendment Regulations did not address all the above issues, that certain draft Regulations, which had been submitted by learned Senior Counsel appearing for the MCI, did so. Even so, since the deadline for making admissions was over, and there was no formal permission to establish new medical colleges or increase the intake capacity in respect of existing colleges, it was held that the appellants could not be granted relief.

29. In D. Y. Patil Medical College (supra), which is even more strikingly similar, to the present case, than Educare (supra), the application, of the petitioner in that case (hereinafter referred to as “DY Patil”), for increase in its intake capacity, was rejected, by the Central Government on the ground that the requisite Essentiality Certificate and Consent of Affiliation were not submitted by it along with its proposal, which was submitted on 1st September, 2014. The last date for submitting the duly completed application was 31st August, 2014. The Essentiality Certificate was submitted, belatedly, on 24th October, 2014, with a request for condonation of delay. The rejection, thereof, by the Central Government, persuaded DY Patil to move the learned Single Judge of this Court, who allowed the writ petition. Letters Patent Appeal, preferred thereagainst, by the MCI was, however, also allowed, by the Division Bench (relying on Educare (supra)), vide judgment dated 17th April, 2015, resulting in DY Patil moving the Supreme Court by way of SLP.

30. DY Patil contended, before the Supreme Court, that the Essentiality Certificate was required to be issued by the Government of Maharashtra and that, as the Government of Maharashtra had delayed in issuing the said certificate, it was obviously unable to provide the same within time. In view thereof, it was that the delay, in providing the Essentiality Certificate, was required to be condoned. Significantly, reliance was placed, by DY Patil, inter alia, on an interim order, of the Supreme Court, in Poonaiyah Ramajayam Institute of Science and Technology Trust v. M.C.I., (2014) 14 SCC 675. This is significant because Mr. Sandeep Sethi, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioner before me, has also relied on the said order.

31. In para 13 of its report, the Supreme Court took note of the fact that “the time schedule which has statutory force”, had been ordered to be strictly adhered to, by a plethora of decisions earlier rendered by it. The following words, from paras 16 and 17 of the report, merit reproduction:

“16. MCI is required to undertake inspections and thereafter is required to point out the deficiencies to institutions, invite comments and send its recommendations to the Central Government. There are various stages which are time-consuming and the schedule has a purpose of bringing uniformity of commencement of academic session at the same time.
17. In the instant case, the application was admittedly incomplete when it was filed. Though there is a dispute whether it was filed before 31-8-2014. It was submitted on behalf of MCI that it was filed on 2-9-2014. Be that as it may. Even assuming that it was filed before 31-8-2014, admittedly it was an incomplete application as the essentiality certificate issued by the Government of Maharashtra was not enclosed along with the application form due to which application came to be rejected and delay has taken place for which the petitioner has to blame itself.” (Emphasis supplied)

32. Significantly, the Supreme Court also took stock of the earlier decision in Royal Medical Trust (supra), in para 18 of the report, which read thus:

“In Royal Medical Trust v. Union of India [(2015) 10 SCC 19] decided on 20-8-2015, this Court has observed that the schedule must take care of following aspects: (SCC pp. 47-48, para 31)
“31. … (A) Initial assessment of the application at the first level should comprise of checking necessary requirements such as essentiality certificate, consent for affiliation and physical features like land and hospital requirement. If an applicant fails to fulfil these requirements, the application on the face of it, would be incomplete and be rejected. Those who fulfil the basic requirements would be considered at the next stage.
(B) Inspection should then be conducted by the Inspectors of MCI. By very nature such inspection must have an element of surprise. Therefore sufficient time of about three to four months ought to be given to MCI to cause inspection at any time and such inspection should normally be undertaken latest by January. Surprise inspection would ensure that the required facilities and infrastructure are always in place and not borrowed or put in temporarily.
(C) Intimation of the result or outcome of the inspection would then be communicated. If the infrastructure and facilities are in order, the medical college concerned should be given requisite permission/renewal. However, if there are any deficiencies or shortcomings, MCI must, after pointing out the deficiencies, grant to the college concerned sufficient time to report compliance.
(D) If compliance is reported and the applicant states that the deficiencies stand removed, MCI must cause compliance verification. It is possible that such compliance could be accepted even without actual physical verification but that assessment be left entirely to the discretion of MCI and the Central Government. In cases where actual physical verification is required, MCI and the Central Government must cause such verification before the deadline.
(E) The result of such verification if positive in favour of the medical college concerned, the applicant ought to be given requisite permission/renewal. But if the deficiencies still persist or had not been removed, the applicant will stand disentitled so far as that academic year is concerned.”
It is apparent from the aforesaid decision and the Regulations that the application at the first instance is required to be complete and incomplete applications are liable to be rejected. Thereafter, there has to be an inspection and other stages of decision-making process.” (Emphasis, by way of underlining, supplied)

33. Poonaiyah Ramajayam (supra), in which interim order, dated 15th July, 2015 (which was reported in (2015) 10 SCC 80, and on which Mr. Sandeep Sethi placed reliance) was passed, was finally decided vide judgment dated 17th September, 2015, reported in (2015) 10 SCC 83. Suffice it to state that, in para 18 of the report, the Supreme Court reiterated paragraphs 22, 23, 25 and 26 of its earlier decision in D. Y. Patil (supra), which held the time schedules, stipulated in respect of applications for grant of permission to establish new medical colleges or new courses in existing medical colleges, to be sacrosanct and strictly to be observed.

34. V. N. Public Health and Educational Trust (supra) again, bears striking similarities, on facts, with the present case. The respondent V.N. Public Health and Educational Trust (hereinafter referred to as “VNP”) applied for establishment of a new medical College, from the academic year 2016-2017, to the competent authority in the Central Government. The application was forwarded by the Government to the MCI on 23rd September, 2015. The MCI noted that the essentiality certificate issued by the Government of Kerala, in favour of VNP, was not in accordance with the format prescribed by the Establishment of Medical College Regulations, 1999. In the circumstances, MCI recommended disapproval of the application of VNP. The Central Government called VNP to appear, before it and, on VNP failing to do so, the matter was decided, by the Central Government, ex parte, against it.

35. Before the Division Bench of the High Court, the MCI contended that, though the Central Government had, on 23rd December, 2015, asked the MCI to review its recommendation, it was not possible to accede to the request, in view of the time schedule fixed in that regard, which required the MCI to give the recommendation to the Central Government for issue of Letter of Intent by 15th December, 2015. The Division Bench of the High Court held against the MCI, prompting the MCI to move the Supreme Court in appeal.

36. The Supreme Court held, relying on D. Y. Patil (supra) and Educare (supra), thus (in paras 15 to 17 of the report):

“15. In this context, we may profitably refer to the decision in D.Y. Patil Medical College v. Medical Council of India, (2015) 10 SCC 51, wherein the controversy had arisen due to rejection of the application of the institution on the ground that essentiality certificate was not filed along with the application form. The Court dwelled upon the principles stated in Educare Charitable Trust v. Union of India, (2013) 16 SCC 474 : AIR 2014 SC 902], Royal Medical Trust v. Union of India, (2015) 10 SCC 19 and various other decisions and, after analysing the scheme of the Act, has held: (D.Y. Patil Medical College case, SCC p. 73, para 18)
“18. … It is apparent from the aforesaid decision and the Regulations that the application at the first instance is required to be complete and incomplete applications are liable to be rejected. Thereafter, there has to be an inspection and other stages of decision-making process.”
16. The impugned order passed by the High Court is to be tested and adjudged on the anvil of the aforesaid authorities. The application for grant of approval was filed with the essentiality certificate which was a conditional one and, therefore, a defective one. It was not an essentiality certificate in law. In such a situation, the High Court could not have directed for consideration of the application for the purpose of the inspection. Such a direction, we are disposed to think, runs counter to the law laid down in Educare Charitable Trust and Royal Medical Trust. We may further proceed to state that on the date of the application, the essentiality certificate was not in order. The schedule prescribed by MCI, which had been approved by this Court, is binding on all concerned. MCI cannot transgress it. The High Court could not have gone beyond the same and issued any direction for conducting an inspection for the academic year 2016-2017. Therefore, the directions issued by the learned Single Judge and the affirmation thereof by the Division Bench are wholly unsustainable.
17. Consequently, the appeal is allowed and the judgments and orders passed by the High Court are set aside. It will be open to the Trust to submit a fresh application for the next academic year in consonance with the provisions of the Regulations of MCI and as per the time schedule; and in that event, it will be considered appropriately. In the facts and circumstances of the case, there shall be no order as to costs.” (Emphasis supplied)

37. The clarion call of the law, as surrounded by the Supreme Court in the above authorities, is loud and clear. The time-schedule, contemplated in the Regulation, for submission of the complete application, and the processing thereof, stage by stage, till the grant of financial consent by the Central Government for the establishment of a new college or the starting of a new course, is sacrosanct and binding. Neither was it open to the MCI to depart therefrom, nor would it be open to this Court to issue any direction, which would amount to, or even necessitate, such a departure. The attempt, of Mr. Sandeep Sethi, learned Senior Counsel for the petitioner, to distinguish some of the said authorities on the ground that, in those cases, the last date stipulated in the time schedule had itself passed by, completely fails to impress. It may be that, in those cases, the Supreme Court also noted the said fact as inhibiting the possibility of grant of any relief to the petitioner(s); that, however, is entirely irrelevant, insofar as the declaration of the law, in the above authorities, is concerned.

38. Clearly, the time schedule prescribed in the 2000 Regulations binds. The application submitted by the petitioner was unaccompanied by the requisite Consent of Affiliation by the KUHS, and that position remained unchanged till the last date for submission of the application. The matter ends there. It was not possible, in the circumstances, for the respondent to accept the application, merely because the Consent of Affiliation was provided, by the petitioner, on a later date, or even because the inability, of the petitioner, to provide the Consent of Affiliation originally was owing to no fault of the petitioner. There is also merit in the submission, of Mr. Vikas Singh, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the MCI, in this regard, that, as per the stipulated time-schedule, it is required to furnish its final recommendations by 31st January, 2019, after conducting a lengthy and time consuming exercise involving multiple inspections, which is, even practically, impossible.

Conclusion

39. No exception can, therefore, be taken to the impugned decision, of the respondent, to reject the petitioner’s application. Needless to say, this would not preclude the petitioner from filing a fresh application, for the next year, which would be considered on its own merits and strictly in accordance with the time schedule stipulated in the 2000 Regulations.

40. Subject to the above caveat, the writ petition stands dismissed with no order as to costs.