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War at AIIMS: Body count 2

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.

india Updated: Jul 07, 2006 00:48 IST

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 as "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.

Even as the two parties -- Venugopal and the government -- fought 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.

AIIMS RDA secretary Dr Anil Sharma said, "The man was admitted 15 days ago after developing infection in his blood. His case was critical."

In the court, Venugopal’s counsel Arun Jaitley said his client cannot be sacked on grounds which are not justified. Also, he should have been issued a three-month notice. He 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". Additional solicitor-general Gopal Subramanian, however, offered to withdraw the resolution sacking Venugopal and give him an "honourable exit" if he relinquished office on his own.

But Jaitley refused to give a firm undertaking on the offer. The government assured the court that the cabinet would not ratify Venugopal's sacking till Friday, when the case comes up next.