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SC to hear plea of AIIMS director on Monday

Dr Venugopal has challenged the passage of a Bill which he says has been enacted to ease him out of office.

delhi Updated: Nov 30, 2007 16:57 IST

The Supreme Court on Friday decided that it will hear on Monday All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) director P Venugopal's plea challenging the legality of a proposed law, which he says is aimed at easing him out of his office.

A bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan agreed to hear the petition after Venugopal's counsel Mukul Rohtagi brought the matter before it.

However, the bench, which also included Justice RV Raveendran and Justice JM Panchal, refused an urgent hearing saying the apex court registry has already slated the hearing for Monday.

The Faculty Association of AIIMS also challenged the bill -- passed by both houses of parliament Wednesday and awaiting President Pratibha Patil's assent for its notification -- in the apex court.

The proposed law -- titled All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, and Post Graduate Institute for Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh (Amendment) Act, 2007 -- seeks to limit the tenure of the directors of the two institutes to a maximum of five years or till they reach the retirement age of 65, whichever is earlier.

According to the provisions of the original law passed in 1956, AIIMS directors are appointed for a fixed tenure of five years, irrespective of their age.

Venugopal, 66, was appointed director in July 2003 at the age of 62 and is due to retire as director in July 2008 at the age of 67.

The AIIMS director's petition contented that the new law is being enacted by the government solely to ease him out of his office owing to "Union Health Minister A Ramadoss's obsessive and compulsive dislike for him".

The fact that the proposed law provides for its implementation from a retrospective effect makes it evident that it's being passed solely to target him and ease him out of the office, Venugopal said in his petition.

Accordingly, he has pleaded to the court to suspend the implementation of the law till his plea to declare the law unconstitutional and annul it is decided by the court after an elaborate hearing of his petition.

In his petition, the Venugopal said the Supreme Court in its two rulings in 1992 and 1996 had held that the AIIMS director has a fixed tenure of five years, irrespective of age, which cannot be curtailed without any valid and justifiable reason.

He pointed out that even the Delhi High Court on two occasions, July 7, 2006, and Oct 10, 2006, had held that the AIIMS director has a fixed tenure of five years, which cannot be curtailed at the whims and fancies of the political bosses.

The high court had given its rulings on petitions by Venugopal, challenging Health Minister Ramadoss' order sacking him on the basis of a resolution passed by the AIIMS governing body at the minister's instance, based on the accusation of unfair dealings in the running of the hospital.

Venugopal and his AIIMS faculty colleagues contended in their petitions that the new law would seriously jeopardise the autonomy and functioning of premier institutes like AIIMS, New Delhi, and PGIMER, Chandigarh.

The two petitioners sought the court's directions to restrain the government from appointing any minister as the president or an executive member of the governing body of the institutes.