The Supreme Court on Monday asked Union Health Minister A Ramadoss and AIIMS Director P Venugopal to leave aside their personal differences and work together in the interest of the public and the institute.
The observation came from a Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan which also issued notices to Ramadoss and Venugopal on their cross-appeals against March 29 order of the Delhi High Court.
While allowing Venugopal to continue in the prestigious post the High Court had asked him to quit the post of Professor of Cardio-thoracic and Vascular Surgery holding that he could not occupy two posts.
"This is the only direction relevant," the Bench, also comprising Justice RV Raveendran and Justice HS Bedi said referring to the High Court’s observation. "The President and the Director are expected to leave their personal esteem and differences behind in the larger public interest and work together in the interest of All India Institute of Medical Sciences, an institute of international recognition," the HC had observed.
The Health Minister, who is also AIIMS President, has challenged the HC order allowing Venugopal to continue as AIIMS Director. Appearing for the AIIMS President, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanian requested the court to stay of the HC order mandating prior approval of the central government for action against the Director and requiring two-week notice to be given to him.
The ASG wanted the apex court to allow the AIIMS to take action against Venugopal subject to the final order but the court did not pass any interim order. He pointed out that a report by UGC Chairman SK Thorat has revealed that students belonging to certain castes were segregated and alloted top floors of the institute’s hostel.
On the other hand, Venugopal has contended that the minister could not be a member and President of the institute as it affected its autonomy. He also contended that AIIMS Director can’t be termed as an employee and there cannot be an upper age limit.
However, the ASG contended that the director being an appointee of the institute body, proceedings against him could be taken under AIIMS regulations and only in major penalties the prior approval of the central government was required.
On behalf of Venugopal, senior counsel Harish Salve and Arun Jaitley accused the government of adopting different yardsticks in case of PGI Chandigarh and AIIMS. They also contended that since AIIMS Director’s appointment was done by the Cabinet Committee on Appointments, no disciplinary proceedings could be initiated without the Centre’s prior approval.
Ramadoss and Venugopal have been at loggerheads since July 5, 2006 when the latter was removed from the post by the Institute Body meeting called by the AIIMS President for violating the "code of conduct by publicly criticising" the government.
Terming him as a miserable failure as a director, the meeting had said that his continuance was highly detrimental to the future of the premier institute.
The High Court had allowed Venugopal to continue as AIIMS Director on the ground that the Health Minister did not follow the due process of law while sacking him.