S. Ravindra Bhat, J.
1. The Medical Council of India (the appellant, hereafter called 'MCI') is aggrieved by the judgment of a learned Single Judge directing it to treat the Chettinad Hospital & Research Institute/respondent institution's scheme/application dated 27.06.2017 as complete and the first consent of application (hereafter 'COA') dated 05.07.2016 submitted along with it as valid. MCI was further directed to process the said institution's scheme/application dated 27.06.2017 in accordance with law by conducting the requisite inspection.
2. The writ petitioner/institute (i.e. the respondent here, referred to in this judgment as 'Chettinad') impugned the decision, dated 06.02.2018 of MCI, recommending disapproval of its scheme for increase in the number of MBBS seats from 150 to 250 seats, for academic year 2018-19. Chettinad sought further direction to MCI for acceptance of its application/scheme for increase in the number of MBBS seats, in accordance with the directions issued by the Central Government (hereafter 'the Union') by its order dated 31.01.2018, and to take consequential steps, including inspection of Chettinad’s college. The latter further sought direction to MCI to issue a letter of permission to it after providing it adequate opportunity to comply with the deficiencies, if any, found upon inspection. Chettinad had established a medical college in 2006; it became a constituent college of Chettinad Academy of Research and Education (a deemed University under the University Grants Commission Act, 1956) in 2008. It is located in an area of 33.45 acres at Kelambakkam, District Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu; it caters to the medical needs of the surrounding villages for diagnostic, preventive and curative services. Further to MCI’s notification dated 11.12.2013 under Section 11 (2) of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 ('the Act" hereafter), Chettinad was granted permission to establish and administer its MBBS course with an annual intake of 150 students. Claiming that over time its college gained popularity, Chettinad wished to increase its intake annually, in the MBBS course from 150 to 250. It applied to the Government of Tamil Nadu, for obtaining the requisite Essentiality Certificate for permitting the increase, which was granted to it on 04.07.2016. It was also issued a COA from the Chettinad Academy of Research and Education on 05.07.2016, which stated that the said Academy had, on the basis of the report of the Local Inquiry Committee (hereinafter referred to as "LIC"), in principle agreed to increase the number of seats in the MBBS course from the existing 150 seats to 250 seats, for the academic session 2017-18. The COA dated 05.07.2016 (hereafter 'First COA") stated that it would be applicable for five years from the date of its issuance.
3. Based on the said Certificate and the First COA, Chettinad applied, by its scheme dated 27.06.2017 to MCI along with all the requisite documents, in accordance with Section 10A of the Act, for enhancement of annual intake in MBBS seats from 150 to 250 seats. The documents furnished with the scheme were (a) Application Form; (b) Time bound program; (c) Demand Draft in favour of MCI for Rs.4,00,000 (Rupees Four Lakhs Only); (d) Attested Copy of COA dated 05.07.2016 from the Affiliating University, i.e., Chettinad Academy of Research and Education; (e) Attested copy of Bank Authorization Letter; (f) Attested copy of Letter of Recognition; and (g) Attested copy of Essentiality Certificate issued by the government of Tamil Nadu. It was alleged that MCI sat over the matter and on 07.09.2017, Chettinad submitted another COA for the academic session 2018-19, (in the same terms as the First COA). The COA dated 07.09.2017 ('the second COA") was sent to MCI directly and was received in its office on 11.09.2017. By letter dated 19.09.2017, MCI communicated its disapproval of the scheme to the Union, stating that the First COA submitted by Chettinad was invalid since it was for the academic year 2017-18 and not for 2018-19. Thereafter, by letter dated 27.09.2017, the Union communicated MCI's disapproval to Chettinad, and the latter was intimated that it should be present for a personal hearing on 06.10.2017, which was given by the Union, which considered all materials and found both COAs to be valid. The Union, therefore issued a letter, dated 16.10.2017 to MCI, stating that both of Chettinad’s COAs were valid. In this view, the Union referred the matter back to MCI for review, with a specific direction to process the same for assessment.
4. The MCI in its Executive Committee meeting dated 22.11.2017, reiterated its earlier decision to return Chettinad’s scheme on the same ground that the First COA was invalid. Aggrieved by this conclusion (that the First COA was invalid), Chettinad filed a writ petition, W.P. (C) No. 328/2018 (an earlier petition). In the proceeding, an order, dated 12.01.2018 was made, recording MCI’s stand that its impugned disapproval was merely a recommendation and the final decision on the recommendation rested with the Union. Therefore, the court permitted Chettinad to urge its grievances before the Union by way of a detailed representation, and had further directed it to pass a reasoned order on the said representation within a period of ten days. Chettinad accordingly submitted a fresh representation to the Union (on 17.01.2018), after the Union considered the matter and opined that the First COA with its application was valid, as it was applicable for five years from the date of issue. The Union also directed MCI to accept Chettinad's scheme and process it in accordance with provisions of the Act and the regulations made thereunder. MCI, however, yet again in its meeting held on 06.02.2018, reiterated its earlier decision dated 22.11.2017 and recommended disapproval of the Chettinad's scheme, on the same ground that the First COA submitted along with the said scheme invalid. In these circumstances, the Chettinad filed the present second writ petition (WP 2252/2018). At the stage of preliminary hearing, the Additional Solicitor General’s assistance was sought in view of the Union’s position that Chettinad’s scheme was complete and that its First COA was valid. The Union reiterated its position.
5. The MCI’s position before the learned Single Judge, in the writ petition was firstly that the Union had no jurisdiction to direct the MCI to approve/disapprove any particular scheme, as MCI is the only competent statutory expert body especially tasked to regulate medical education in India. It was secondly urged that once MCI concluded that Chettinad’s original COA along with its scheme was invalid, it justifiably rejected the scheme at the threshold. MCI relied on the authority of the Supreme Court’s judgment in of the Supreme Court in Royal Medical Trust v Union of India [(2015) 10 SCC 19] to urge that the Union’s repeated directions to process Chettinad's scheme were, erroneous and correctly ignored by it. MCI further argued that the first COA was for academic session 2017-18 and though Chettinad was aware that such COA did not conform with the prescribed requirements, subsequently submitted a fresh COA dated 07.09.2017. It stated that though the second COA (dated 07.09.2017) though valid was rightly ignored by it since it was admittedly submitted much after the cut-off date. Accordingly, Chettinad's failure to submit a valid COA along with its scheme could not be condoned, as a valid COA was a precondition for examining the scheme. MCI referred to and relied on the Establishment of Medical College Regulations, 1999, to say that the opportunity to remove deficiencies could be given only by the Central Government, and there is no scope for MCI to grant any such opportunity to the concerned person or college while dealing with his/her/its scheme under Section 10A (3) of the Act. MCI urged that the opportunity to cure any deficiencies arises only at the time of inspection.
6. In the light of the rival contentions, the learned Single Judge proceeded – by the impugned judgment, to firstly analyze the provisions of Section 10A. According to her, broadly, the scheme of that provision envisioned that as a first step, the Central Government, after receiving an application (like in the present case) for increase in intake in an existing medical college, had to refer it to the MCI. In the second step, MCI had to consider the application and adopt one of the two courses: either accept it, or if it wished to reject it, seek the views of the applicant, by giving proper opportunity. The impugned judgment took note of observations in Royal Medical College (supra) to hold that the MCI was obliged to elicit and consider Chettinad’s views, after giving it reasonable opportunity and that on this score, it (MCI) had faltered since no such opportunity was ever granted. It was held that –
'I find that the Respondent No. 2 has grossly violated the same by not only depriving the Petitioner of a reasonable opportunity of being heard, but by also taking an inordinate amount of time to communicate its disapproval of the Petitioner's scheme. The callous manner in which the Respondent No. 2 has processed the Petitioner's application is an instance of the kind of red-tapism that has been condemned by the Hon'ble Supreme Court on many an occasion. This Court appreciates the assistance given by the Ld. ASG and the fair stand taken by her in emphasizing and condemning the Respondent No. 2's red-tapism.'
The Single Judge also held that the Union’s directions bound MCI:
'28. Having carefully considered the provisions of Section 10A (3) and (4) of the Act, and in light of the Respondent No. 2's unequivocal stand before this Court, I find that the Central Government, being the final decision- making authority, has the authority to issue directions to the Respondent No. 2 to process a particular scheme. In my considered opinion, the Respondent No. 2 is bound by these directions of the Respondent No. 1, and any defiance thereof on part of the Respondent No. 2 is contrary to law, especially the provisions of the Act. In view of this conclusion, I find that the Respondent No. 1's finding, that the First COA submitted by the Petitioner was valid, is binding on the Respondent No. 2. Therefore, the Respondent No. 2 has no authority to disobey the Respondent No. 1's directions and refuse to process the Petitioner's scheme, on the ground that the First COA submitted along with it was invalid, when the same had been categorically held as valid by the Respondent No. 1. I am of the opinion that, in refusing to process the Petitioner's scheme, the Respondent No. 2 has not only gone far beyond the scope of its recommendatory functions, but has essentially usurped the Respondent No. 1's authority to make the final decision with regard to a scheme under Section 10A (4) of the Act.'
The impugned judgment held that undoubtedly the position in law that prescribed time limits had to be adhered to was undisputed. Nevertheless, having regard to the facts of the case, it was observed and held as follows:
'However, in the facts of the present case, the Respondent No. 1 has come to a categorical conclusion that the Petitioner's scheme was complete in all respects and the First COA submitted along with the said scheme was valid. Therefore, none of the aforesaid decisions apply to the facts of the present case. In my considered opinion, the only ground taken by the Respondent No. 2 in recommending disapproval of the Petitioner's scheme was that it was incomplete, since the First COA submitted along with the same was invalid. However, in view of the Respondent No. 1's categorical finding that the Petitioner's scheme was complete and the First COA submitted along with the same was valid, the Respondent No. 2's disapproval of the Petitioner's scheme on this ground was completely wrong and cannot be sustained.'
The final conclusions and operative directions given in the impugned judgment, are as follows:
'37. It has been contended that, in view of the paucity of time to process the Petitioner's scheme according to the provisions of the Act, it would be inappropriate the allow the writ petition at this stage. However, in my considered opinion, this delay has occurred only on account of the Respondent No. 2's red-tapism, as has been contended by the learned ASG, and the consequences of the same cannot be allowed to fall on the Petitioner. I find merit in Mr. Bhardwaj's submission that it was incumbent upon the Respondent No. 2 to show due diligence right from the day the Petitioner's scheme was received, especially in light of the settled legal position that the time lines prescribed for the various stages of processing the applications under Section 10A have to be strictly adhered to. Therefore, in my considered opinion, the paucity of time in this case does not create an embargo on granting the reliefs prayed for in the present petition.
38. In view of my aforementioned conclusions, the Respondent No. 2 is directed to treat the Petitioner's scheme/application dated 27.06.2017 as complete and the First COA dated 05.07.2016 submitted along with it as valid. The Respondent No. 2 is further directed to process the Petitioner's scheme/application dated 27.06.2017 as per law by conducting the requisite inspection. Needless to say, if the Petitioner, during inspection, is found to not meet the requisite standards and criteria stipulated under the Act or is discovered to be deficient in some respect, the Respondent No. 2 will be free to recommend disapproval of the Petitioner's scheme, whereafter the Respondent No. 1 would be entitled to take an appropriate decision in accordance with law.'
Contentions of parties
7. Mr. Vikas Singh, learned Senior Counsel for MCI argued that for effectively implementation of Section 10-A, the MCI, with approval of the Central Government framed under Section norms providing for the detailed procedures to be followed and the criteria to be considered applying for starting new higher courses of study or training or increase of intake capacity in the existing medical college, i.e. "The Opening of a New or Higher Course of Study or Training (including Post-graduate Course of Study or Training) and Increase of Admission Capacity in any Course of Study or Training (including a Postgraduate Course of Study or Training) Regulations, 2000" (hereafter "2000 Regulations"). Reliance is placed on the decision of the Supreme Court in Ashish Ranjan & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. (2016) 11 SCC 225 and Union of India v. All India Children Care and Educational Development Society- (2002) 3 SCC 649, wherein it is submitted that the time schedule prescribed under the said Regulations are iron clad and that only such applications which are complete in all respects as per the qualifying criteria prescribed in the statutory regulations, that deserve to be treated as applications under Section 10A.
8. Adverting to the time schedule prescribed in the regulations, it is urged that at the second stage, it is imperative that the complete applications which are received by the Central Government between 15.06.2017 to 07.07.2017 are then required to be forwarded to the MCI positively before the 15.07.2017 in which the fresh applications are submitted to the Central Govt. The Central Govt. is, therefore, obliged to forward the complete applications under Section 10A of the Act to the Council by the 15.07.2017 and not thereafter. The counsel states that on receipt of the application from the Central Govt. on or before the 15.07.2017, MCI has to evaluate those applications/technical scrutiny and conducting inspections for sending recommendation to the Govt. of India, for grant of Letter of Permission (LOP). This exercise has to be completed by the Council on or before 15.12.2017 and this time stage is also an absolute imperative. Thereafter, two months' time (from the receipt of recommendation from MCI but not beyond 31.01.2018 is provided to the applicant for sending reply/ compliance to the Central Govt., for personal hearing and forwarding of compliance by the Central Govt. to the MCI. The final recommendation for letter of permission has to be made by the MCI by of April 2018.
9. It is submitted that the statutory time schedule permits the Central Govt. to issue of Letter of Permission to a medical college for Establishment of new medical college or for renewal of permission or increase of intake capacity on or before 31.05.2018. Mr.Singh submitted that under MCIs regulations, an applicant, seeking increased intake in the undergraduate (MBBS) course has to necessarily fulfill all statutory preconditions together with the need of submitting all requisite documents including the Essentiality Certificate and the Consent of Affiliation, as provided for in the qualifying criteria of Statutory Regulations of MCI- the 2000 Regulations, to be eligible to apply under Section 10A of the Act. Any application under Section 10A which does not fulfill the statutory preconditions of the qualifying criteria in terms of the requisite documents cannot be said to be an application under Section 10A, deserving rejection at the initial stage by the Government of India itself. It is submitted that under the statutory regulations of the MCI an incomplete application is not fit for registration under section 10A of the Act. Reliance is placed on the decision of the Supreme Court in Dental Council of India v. S.R.M. Institute of Science and Technology (2004) 9 SCC 676, K.S. Bhoir v. State of Maharashtra (2001) 10 SCC 264; Govt. of A.P. v. Medwin Educational Society (2004) 1 SCC 86.
10. MCI argued that Chettinad’s application dated 27.06.2017 had not submitted a copy of the Consent of Affiliation valid for academic year 2018-19 thus the said application was incomplete in reference to the 2000 Regulations and was therefore rejected. Highlighting the importance of adherence to time limits counsel explains that grant of permissions/annual renewals in such cases where colleges can fulfil the minimum infrastructural, teaching and other facilities – found to be so at the early inspection itself and the recommendation are sent by the Council to the Govt. of India - it is apparent that the process of consideration of the recommendation of the MCI and the grant of permission/renewal by the Govt. of India would not be required to wait till the last date of 30thApril for the MCI and 31st of May prescribed for this purpose for the Central Govt. to do so. This can also take place earlier, i.e., much prior to the last date. It is further submitted that as per the statutory time schedule with regard to the processing of such applications under Section 10A, every complete application, fulfilling all the conditions of the statutory qualifying criteria including all documents, requires a period of full one year for conducting the necessary process and for grant of permission under Section 10A of where after the applicant becomes entitled to make admissions in the course. In other words, for the admissions in the academic year 2018-19, every college/ applicant was to submit a complete application by 07.07.2017. The learned senior counsel highlighted that the Supreme Court’s rulings have underlined the importance of adhering to the prescribed time lines, for permission to commence new courses or increase intake in existing courses/colleges and relied on Medical Council of India v. Manas Ranjan Behera (2010) 1 SCC 173 and Priya Gupta v. State of Chhattisgarh (2012) 7 SCC 433. The decision in Royal Medial Trust (supra) relied on by the single judge too was relied on.
11. MCI submits that after the COA was issued on 05.07.2016, Chettinad, in this case, applied for permission on 06.07.2016; the application was forwarded to MCI by the Central Government on 14.07.2016 after which, in the presence of the management and its representatives, MCI’s team inspected the college. MCI states that the inspection revealed that in almost all departments, there was a staff inadequacy; on an average it was 16.08% as detailed in the report. Shortage of residents was 32.28% and bed occupancy was 32.34% on day of assessment; details of available Paramedical & Non-teaching staff were not provided; hospital lecture theatre was under construction and no resident’s quarters were available for non-teaching staff. Besides, other deficiencies were pointed out in the assessment report. As these deficiencies were fundamental in nature and impinged on public interest, the MCI’s Executive Committee Regulation 8(3)(1)(c) of the Establishment of Medical College Regulation, 1999 which provides that if the deficiencies of teaching faculty and/or residents is more than 10% - (in the present case 16.08%) or if the bed occupancy is found to be less than 70% - (in the present case 32.34%); in that case no opportunity of rectification of the deficiencies shall be provided to the medical college and also the medical college will not be considered for processing applications for postgraduate courses in that academic year and will be issued show cause notice as to why the recommendation for withdrawal of recognition of the courses run by the medical college should not be made for undergraduate and postgraduate courses which are recognized under Section 11(2) of the Act. It was therefore decided by the Council not to consider Chettinad for processing application for postgraduate courses for the academic year 2017-18 and to issue a show cause notice as to why the recommendation for withdrawal of recognition of the courses run by it should not be made for undergraduate and postgraduate courses recognized under Section 11(2). This decision was communicated by MCI to the Central Government by its letter, dated 13.01.2017. MCI also submits that as the Central Government had set up a committee to grant hearing to the concerned individual colleges, under Section 10A (4) that committee granted hearing to Chettinad on 02.02.2017. The Central Government in its letter of 08.02.2017 – it is urged- wrongly required MCI to reconsider the issue; by its meeting of the Executive Committee, the MCI reconsidered the issue and reiterated its decision not to approve the request for increased intake, on 28.03.2017. This was sent to the Central Government by letter dated 20.04.2017.
12. It is next argued that Chettinad’s compliance verification report/ assessment dated 25.04.2017 was considered by MCI’s committee on 28.04.2017. This report indicated that faculty deficiency was to an extent of 27.09%; Residents’ shortage, to an extent of 62.10%; bed occupancy on the date of assessment was 42.06% and there were only five major surgeries or operations. Besides most patients did not require hospitalization and were healthy; they had no papers and were generally fit to walk and move about. There were no residential quarters for non teaching staff. In view of these, the MCI had no option but to apply Regulation 8(3)(1)(c) of the 1999 Regulations and the show cause notice proceedings; this was followed up with a show cause notice on 30-04-2017. This decision was accepted and conveyed to Chettinad, through letter dated 31.05.2017 by the Central Government. Chettinad represented and replied to the show cause notice which led to a fresh compliance verification report (dated 31.07.2017 and 01.08.2017). Again, there were significant deficiencies, in the form of bed deficiency to the extent of 73.47%; shortcomings in lack of diagnosis etc in the case sheet were noticed; in the TB and chest ward both male and female wards were lacking in oxygen facilities. Most paediatric ward patients seemed healthy. These deficiencies too, in MCI’s opinion were fundamental and the Executive Committee of the MCI therefore decided to apply Regulation 8 (3) of the 1999 regulations vis--vis show cause notice for deficiencies, which was communicated to Chettinad on 31.10.2017.
13. MCI urged that in this case the learned Single Judge overlooked that Chettinad had submitted it is incomplete application for increased intake from 150 to 250 for academic year 2018-19 on 27.06.2016, which was forwarded to MCI on 14.07.2017 by the Central government. Since the application did not comply with the Regulations of 2000 for academic year 2018-19, MCI was within its rights to refuse it. The MCI relies on several judgments, including Royal Medical Trust; and other cases. Counsel argued that the single judge erroneously concluded that since Chettinad was issued a show cause notice on 19.04.2018 recommending withdrawal of recognition due fundamental deficiencies found during the assessment of 02.04.2018, regarding the continuation of recognition of its course for 150 seats, that was not an issue germane to the present matter. It is stressed that Chettinad sought increased intake capacity. In this regard, it is also a threshold requirement prescribed by the regulations that only such medical colleges be liable to apply for increasing intake whose undergraduate, i.e. MBBS qualification continues to be recognised for the initial intake capacity. Senior counsel states that the single judge was at fault in holding was delay in processing the application by Chettinad, on account of red tapism on its part. The last date for scrutiny of the application was 1512 2017 residency in the first instance, had returned the application thinking of September 2017.
14. Counsel submitted that the impugned judgment has long-term implications, in as much as it directs MCI to ignore prescribed timelines in respect to receipt and in processing of applications. Emphasising that these timelines are necessary in public interest, the learned counsel firstly, submitted that they have been reiterated in several decisions of the Supreme Court as of essence and secondly that these timelines clarify the MCI’s scope and duty for inspection. In any given year, several hundred applications are received for setting up of new colleges of increasing intake in various undergraduate and postgraduate courses. The necessarily entail detailed scrutiny, not only of applications, but it's processing through several stages such as verification and inspection. The non compliance of those timelines can be at any stage, which results in rejection of those applications. That is essential and necessary in the larger public interest, not only for ensuring adherence to minimum standards of medical education, but for ensuring the those professionally qualified in accordance with the standards in fact, graduate from recognised institutions and serve the public as trusted doctors.
15. Senior Counsel for Chettinad, Mr. Arun Bhardwaj, contended that pursuant to this court’s initial order, the Central Government issued an order on 18.01.2018 which reads as follows:
"...3. Considering the representation/documents furnished by the Institute in the light of the direction of the Hon'ble High Court, the Ministry is of the opinion that the Consent of Affiliation dated 05.07.2016 submitted by the Institute along with the application for Increase of intake capacity in MBBS course from 150 to 250 seats for the academic session 2018-19 is a valid COA since it is applicable for five years from the date of issue. The Ministry therefore directs MCI to accept the application of the Institute and process it as per the provisions of the 1956 and Regulations made thereunder..."
16. Learned counsel argued that the above order is binding on the MCI and that its decision in its impugned order dated 06.02.2018 is also in violation of the judgment in Royal Medical Trust. It is submitted that the decisions cited by MCI are irrelevant, because the facts in those cases were different. Counsel also argued that the reasoned order of the Central Government examined all aspects highlighted (by the MCI of 16.10.2017, which rejected Chettinad’s request). Consequently, the Central Government’s view and directions prevailed and could not have been disregarded.
17. Mr. Bhardwaj urged that Chettinad’s scheme dated 27.06.2017 was erroneously rejected by MCI not only by ignoring that it was complete in all forms, but also by patently refusing to abide by the directions of the Central Government, which was the final authority to approve the scheme submitted by any person proposing to establish a medical college or by any medical college proposing to introduce a new or higher course of study or increase its admission capacity.
18. The Counsel highlighted that the MCI’s rejection of Chettinad’s application was not only an erroneous interpretation, that the COA dated 05.07.2016 submitted along with its scheme was invalid, but it was in violation of principles of natural justice and had, despite Section 10A (3) the Act, failed to grant it opportunity to rectify the defect, if any, found in its scheme. He contended that the manner in which MCI’s rejected the Petitioner's scheme, on a hyper technical ground after two months of having received it from the Central Government and without giving any opportunity to Chettinad to explain its position in respect of the First COA, clearly showed that, though MCI objected on the ground that the time schedule prescribed for processing such schemes is sacrosanct (and has to be strictly adhered to), it took an inordinate amount of time to examine the scheme. He submits that, under the Act, the only role assigned to MCI is to carry out a factual verification of the infrastructure available to the college, to check whether the concerned college meets the standards prescribed, which stage has not arrived since it (MCI) defied the repeated directions of Union of India to process the application on its own merits. It was argued that this defiance by MCI is contrary to law, since it is in violation of the Act, in terms of which the Central Government is the final decision-making authority. Counsel stated that Royal Medical Trust is an authority for the proposition that MCI is under a duty to act diligently from the day a scheme is received by it and that it has to comply with natural justice at all levels.
19. Ms.Maninder Acharya, learned Additional Solicitor General, appeared for the Union of India and stated that the Hearing Committee constituted in the Ministry under Section 10A(4) of IMC Act, 1956 gave an opportunity of personal hearing to Chettinad’s representatives on 06.10.2017. The representatives submitted that the COA dated 09.07.2016 is valid for five years. However, in view of the revised format for CoA prescribed MCI, a new consent valid for 2018-19 was issued on 07.09.2017 a copy of which was submitted to MCI. The college further contended the CoA format was revised for PG course. The hearing committee found the submissions of the college acceptable and was of the view that the application may be processed for assessment. The Committee further recommended that Chettinad’s scheme may be referred back to MCI for review. By letter dated 16.10.2017 the Central Government sent the recommendations of the hearing committee to MCI for reviewing Chettinad’s scheme. MCI, by its letter dated 15.12.2017 informed the Central Government that its Executive Committee at its meeting held on 22.11.2017 considered its letter dated 16.10.2017 alongwith Chettinad’s institute letter dated 03.10.2017 and observed that the CoA in the prescribed format was submitted to the Central Government only on 11.09.2017 which was past the last date of application 07.07.2017. The Executive Committee of the Council reiterated its earlier decision to return Chettinad’s application for increase of seats in MBBS intake from 150 to 250 at its petitioner institute for the year 2018-19. It was also informed that the decision of the Executive Committee was approved by the Oversight Committee on 14.12.2017. Aggrieved by this decision, Chettinad approached this court, which on 12.01.2018 directed that its representation should be considered expeditiously by the Central Government, which did so and told the MCI by letter dated 31.01. 2018 that the CoA dated 05.07.2016 was valid and could be considered for processing.
20. It was argued that the single judge’s decision cannot be faulted because once the Central Government felt that the CoA was valid, the MCI could not override that decision, given that such a decision was final and binding. Besides, the CoA of 05.07.2016 was expressly valid for five years; therefore, the insistence by MCI for a fresh CoA for each academic year was inconsistent with the requirements of the Regulations and the Act. In these circumstances, it was submitted by the ASG that this court should not disturb the findings and directions of the Single Judge.
Analysis and Conclusions
21. Section 10A which is relevant for the purposes of this appeal, reads as follows:
"10A. PERMISSION FOR ESTABLISHMENT OF NEW MEDICAL COLLEGE, NEW COURSE OF STUDY ETC.
(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or any other law for the time being in force:-
(a) no person shall establish a medical college or (b) no medical college shall:-
(i) open a new or higher course of study or training (including a postgraduate course of study or training) which would enable a student of such course or training to qualify himself for the award of any recognised medical qualification; or
(ii) increase its admission capacity in any course of study or training (including a postgraduate course of study or training), except with the previous permission of the Central Government obtained in accordance with the provisions of this section.
Explanation 1-. For the purposes of this section, "person" includes any University or a trust but does not include the Central Government.
Explanation 2.- For the purposes of this section "admission capacity" in relation to any course of study or training (including postgraduate course of study or training) in a medical college, means the maximum number of students that may be fixed by the Council from time to time for being admitted to such course or training.
(2) (a) Every person or medical college shall, for the purpose of obtaining permission under sub-section (1), submit to the Central Government a scheme in accordance with the provisions of clause (b) and the central Government shall refer the scheme to the Council for its recommendations.
(b) The Scheme referred to in clause (a) shall be in such form and contain such particulars and be preferred in such manner and be accompanied with such fee as may be prescribed.
(3) On receipt of a scheme by the Council under sub-section (2) the Council may obtain such other particulars as may be considered necessary by it from the person or the medical college concerned, and thereafter, it may –
(a) if the scheme is defective and does not contain any necessary particulars, give a reasonable opportunity to the person or college concerned for making a written representation and it shall be open to such person or medical college to rectify the defects, if any, specified by the Council.
(b) consider the scheme, having regard to the factors referred to in sub-section (7) and submit the scheme together with its recommendations thereon to the Central Government.
(4) The Central Govt. may after considering the scheme and the recommendations of the Council under sub-section (3) and after obtaining, where necessary, such other particulars as may be considered necessary by it from the person or college concerned, and having regard to the factors referred to in sub-section (7), either approve (with such conditions, if any, as it may consider necessary ) or disapprove the scheme, and any such approval shall be a permission under sub-section (1):
Provided that no scheme shall be disapproved by the Central Government except after giving the person or college concerned a reasonable opportunity of being heard;
Provided further that nothing in this sub section shall prevent any person or medical college whose scheme has not been approved by the Central Government to submit a fresh scheme and the provisions of this section shall apply to such scheme, as if such scheme has been submitted for the first time under subsection (1).
(5) Where, within a period of one year from the date of submission of the scheme to the Central Government under sub-section (1), no order passed by the Central Government has been communicated to the person or college submitting the scheme, such scheme shall be deemed to have been approved by the Central Government in the form in which it had been submitted, and accordingly, the permission of the Central Government required under sub-section (1) shall also be deemed to have been granted.
(6) In computing the time-limit specified in sub-section (5), the time taken by the person or college concerned submitting the scheme, in furnishing any particulars called for by the Council, or by the Central Government, shall be excluded.
(7) The Council, while making its recommendations under clause (b) of sub-section (3) and the Central Government, while passing an order, either approving or disapproving the scheme under sub-section (4), shall have due regard to the following factors, namely:-
(a) whether the proposed medical college or the existing medical college seeking to open a new or higher course of study or training, would be in a position to offer the minimum standards of medical education as prescribed by t
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he Council under section 19A or, as the case may be under section 20 in the case of postgraduate medical education. (b) whether the person seeking to establish a medical college or the existing medical college seeking to open a new or higher course of study or training or to increase it admission capacity has adequate financial resources; (c) whether necessary facilities in respect of staff, equipment, accommodation, training and other facilities to ensure proper functioning of the medical college or conducting the new course or study or training or accommodating the increased admission capacity, have been provided or would be provided within the time-limit specified in the scheme. (d) whether adequate hospital facilities, having regard to the number or students likely to attend such medical college or course of study or training or as a result of the increased admission capacity, have been provided or would be provided within the time-limit specified in the scheme; (e) whether any arrangement has been made or programme drawn to impart proper training to students likely to attend such medical college or course of study or training by persons having the recognised medical qualifications; (f) the requirement of manpower in the field of practice of medicine; and (g) any other factors as may be prescribed. (8) Where the Central Government passes an order either approving or disapproving a scheme under this section, a copy of the order shall be communicated to the person or college concerned." 22. The relevant provisions of the 2000 Regulations read as follows: "3.2 That the Essentiality Certificate in the prescribed format regarding no objection of the State Government / Union Territory administration for opening of New or Higher Course of Study or Training (Including Post Graduate Course of Study or Training) and Increase of Admission Capacity in any Course of Study or Training (Including a Post Graduate Course of Study or Training) in the medical college/institution and availability of the adequate clinical material as per the Council Regulations have been obtained by the applicant from the concerned State Government/Union Territory administration, as the case may be. 3.3 That Consent of Affiliation in the prescribed format with respect to opening of New or Higher Course of Study or Training (Including Post Graduate Course of Study or Training) and Increase of Admission Capacity in any Course of Study or Training (Including a Post Gradaute Course of Study or Training) has been obtained by the Medical College/institution from the University to which it is affiliated." 23. The initial application for increased intake was made on 06.07.2016; it was accompanied by a CoA dated 05.07.2016. That CoA stated that it was valid for five years; it also stated that the consent was for Academic year 2017-18. The application was processed, after the Central Government forwarded it to MCI (on 14.07.2017). According to MCI, several crucial deficiencies were noticed, which resulted in the rejection of the application for increased intake. MCI’s decision was communicated to the Central Government by letter dated 13.01.2017. The Central Government had set up a committee to grant hearing to the concerned individual colleges, under Section 10A (4) that committee granted hearing to Chettinad on 02.02.2017. The Central Government in its letter of 08.02.2017 MCI (argues, wrongly) required it to reconsider the issue; by meeting of its Executive Committee, MCI reconsidered the issue and reiterated its decision not to approve the request for increased intake, on 28.03.2017. This was sent to the Central Government by letter dated 20.04.2017. The record also shows that MCI had decided to invoke Regulation 8(3) (1) (c) of the Establishment of Medical College Regulations, 1999 which reads as follows: '(c) Colleges which are already recognized for award of M.B.B.S. degree and/or running Postgraduate Courses: If it is observed during any regular inspection of the institute that the deficiency of teaching faculty and/or Residents is more than 10% and/or bed occupancy is