All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Director P Venugopal has filed a petition in the Supreme Court, challenging the AIIMS Amendment Bill that fixes the upper limit of the director's age at 65. The Bill has been passed by Parliament and is waiting for the President's approval. Once that happens, cardiac surgeon Venugopal, who is 66, will have to step down as AIIMS director.
Despite resident doctors going on strike on Wednesday, the hospital functioned normally.
The Bill has further widened the rift between the AIIMS director and Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, who is being accused of introducing the Bill to get Venugopal out before his term ends on June 30, 2008. Dr Venugopal's critics say the institute needs a 'younger and non-autocratic' head to function better. "For the last two-and-half years, the director has been adamant on the issue of autonomy," said a senior doctor.
"By passing the Bill, the government has given him the chance to make an honorable exit. Ideally speaking, after he was found guilty of aiding and abetting the anti-reservation strike and harassing reserved category students, he should have been tried under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act," said Dr Anoop Saraya, professor of gastroenterology, AIIMS.
Doctors and students supporting Dr Venugopal claim the ministry's interference in running the institute is contempt of the High Court order of July 2007. "When Dr Venugopal was forcibly ousted in July this year, the judiciary had ordered that neither the government nor the ministry can interfere with the appointment and functioning of the director," said Dr Kumar Harsh, president, Resident Doctors' Association.
At General Body Meeting of the Faculty in AIIMS (FAIIMS), a signature campaign was launched to appeal to the President to let Dr Venugopal retain charge till his tenure ends. "To compensate the damage caused to patients, doctors have decided to run the OPDs from 9 am to 8 pm, wearing black badges as a mark of protest," said Dr Binod Khaitan, President AIIMS. The faculty and students have also decided to march from AIIMS to Rashtrapati Bhawan.