Apex court begins hearing former AIIMS chief’s plea

March 5th, 2008 - 8:32 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) The Supreme Court Wednesday began examining the constitutional validity of a law allegedly enacted to oust noted cardiologist P. Venugopal as director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). Venugopal has questioned the law, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, and Post Graduate Institute for Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, (Amendment) Act, 2007, which limited the tenure of the directors of these two institutes to a maximum of five years or till they reach the retirement age of 65.

Beginning his argument on behalf of Venugopal, senior advocate Arun Jaitley contended before the bench of Justice Tarun Chatterjee that the amendment was brought by the central government with the sole purpose of removing his client.

“The amendment to the AIIMS Act pertaining to the fixation of upper age for the director at 65 is discriminatory against the distinguished cardiologist and needs to be quashed,” said Jaitley.

He contended that the amendment was illegal as the Delhi High Court had in March last year permitted his continuance in the post.

But the central government amended the law even as it had come to the apex court challenging the high court ruling.

The new law was viewed as a move by Health Minister A. Ramadoss to remove Venugopal, with whom he has been involved in a bitter turf war. Venugopal, who has been associated with AIIMS for 42 years, is over 66.

On Dec 3, the apex court had expressed displeasure over Venugopal’s removal and described it as “unfortunate”.

“Why was such a reputed person humiliated in this way,” it had asked while questioning the motive behind bringing the amendment when Venugopal’s tenure as director was coming to an end six months later.

According to the provisions of the original law passed in 1956, AIIMS directors are appointed for a fixed tenure of five years, irrespective of their age.

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