THE AIIMS saga has reached the Delhi High Court. On Thursday, its director P. Venugopal filed a petition, challenging the government’s decision to sack him following his spat with Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss.
Terming the decision “illegal and unsustainable”, Venugopal's main argument was that he could not be sacked as his term of five years was protected by an AIIMS statute.
The office of profit controversy made its way into the AIIMS muddle with Venugopal seeking Ramadoss's disqualification on this ground. "Large number of privileges are attached to the office of the President of AIIMS.
Ostensibily, the office grants him personal benefits. But the Minister is drawing pecuniary benefits for his personal staff thereby rendering his holding the office of the President as an office of profit. Therefore he gets automatically disqualified under the provisions of article 102 as an MP", Venugopal's petition said.
Venugopal invited the attention of the court to the Supreme Court judgement in this regard in Jaya Bacchan Vs Union of India.
Venugopal's supporters are planning to petition the Election commission and the President against Ramadoss. Even as the two partiesfought it out in the court, doctors at AIIMS continued with their strike, crippling services at the hospital. In the evening, a 45-year-old patient died, but the doctors refused to take blame, saying his was a critical case.
Venugopal’s counsel Arun Jaitley said his client could not be sacked on grounds which were not justified. Also, he should have been issued a three-month notice. Jaitley cited a Supreme Court ruling in the L.P. Aggarwal vs Union of India case.
In 1992, AIIMS director Aggarwal was prematurely retired under similar circumstances. The SC had said he should not have been shown the door without justifiable grounds and without a three-month notice.
In Venugopal’s case, the government said the AIIMS Regulation empowered it to “promptly remove a director if he acts against public interest”.