Published: 19th November 2022
SC: Private colleges have no power to demand a bond
Chief Justice Chandrachud: "The student is entitled to interest. The money has been wrongly kept"
A private medical college was pulled up by the Supreme Court on Friday, November 18, for compelling a post-graduate student to pay Rs 5 lakh for compulsory services after completing her PG course. A Single-judge Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court had ruled in 2020 that it was "unsustainable in law" for the appellant college to withhold the petitioner's original documents and certificates until she had submitted the bond money. The private medical college was therefore ordered to refund the amount with interest within a month.
The Division Bench of the High Court even upheld the writ court ruling in an appeal. The private medical college then filed an appeal against this ruling in the Supreme Court with a Bench consisting of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Hima Kohli presiding over it, stated a report by LiveLaw.
Chief Justice Chandrachud exclaimed before the counsel for the medical college could make any submissions, "I was shocked. How can you ask for a bond? You are a private institution. Only the government can ask for a bond because they subsidise medical education, whereas a private medical college will charge crores of rupees. Therefore, they can say that after you complete your education, you can serve out a bond."
The counsel attempted to explain, "We are also charging only seven lakhs." The Chief Justice continued probing, "But under what authority did you ask for the bond that she will pay five lakhs?" The counsel responded by saying, "This was a condition. She was given a choice," as reported by LiveLaw.
"Show us the power," challenged Chief Justice, adding, "If you do not have the power, then you have to return the money." The counsel tried to explain their policy again and said, "This is because, at the stage of senior residency, in a place like Ujjain, no one takes that post. That is the reason." However, his argument by the counsel did not sway the judges.
The counsel also implored the Bench to set aside the High Court's direction about the payment of interest at the rate of 8% per year, citing "procedural difficulties", including the order being uploaded. But the Chief Justice firmly said, "No, that will not be possible. The student is entitled to interest. The money has been wrongly kept."
The imposition of a mandatory bond to be executed for admission to postgraduate medical education institutes and super specialty courses was challenged, but the Supreme Court dismissed it in August 2019. While dismissing that appeal, a Bench made up of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta noted that some state governments had rigid conditions in the compulsory bonds and recommended the adoption of a uniform policy on the mandatory service required of doctors who received their training in government institutions that would be applicable across states, stated the LiveLaw report.
In August of this year, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from MBBS students who sought to have the bond requirements in undergraduate medical education eliminated and instead directed the petitioners to file a case with the Bombay High Court. Mint has reported that the Union Health Ministry is creating guidelines to do away with the bond policy for doctors, which requires them to work for a pre-determined amount of time in a state-run hospital following their graduation and postgraduation course, stated the LiveLaw report.