180 Kerala MBBS students in quandary as Governor returns professional college bill

South India

KOCHI: Kerala Governor P Sathasivam has returned the controversial Kerala Professional Colleges Bill confounding the embarrassment caused to the Left Front government by the Supreme Court order staying the ordinance preceding the bill and cancelling admission of 180 MBBS students in two medical colleges in the state. 

Sathasivam, who is a former chief justice of India, took the decision on the basis of legal advice sought by him. According to reports, legal experts had opined that the bill would override the apex court order, which had termed the ordinance issued by the government in November last year as an affront to the judiciary.

The bill sought to validate the admission of 180 MBBS students in Kannur and Karuna self-financing medical colleges for the academic year 2016-17. 

The governor had also received numerous pleas from leaders of various political parties and social activists against giving assent to the bill. While a delegation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by its sole MLA O Rajagopal met the governor and urged him not to give assent to the bill, former state Congress chief, V M Sudheeran expressed his disagreement through a letter.

In his four-page letter, Sudheern urged the governor to return the bill to the legislature by invoking his powers under Article 200 of the Constitution. He pointed out that the stand of the Fee Supervisory Committee regarding the was upheld by the high court as well as the Supreme Court. The committee had found admission for 2016-17 irregular, illegal and corrupt

After meeting the governor, Rajagopal told reporters that the bill passed unanimously by the state Assembly had favoured the college managements which gave admission by taking huge money as capitation fee.

“We have our sympathies to the students, who have lost two precious years due to the corrupt activities of the college managements. But we cannot support illegal and corrupt practices of the managements,” Rajagopal said.

The bill was sent to the governor with the dissenting notes of law and health secretaries, who felt that it would override various court orders. Rajeev Sadanandan, the health secretary, had also opposed the ordinance.  

The governor had initially returned the ordinance citing legal anomalies but he signed it later following clarifications from the government. The governor’s decision to return the bill may deprive the state government of its last vestige to defend its stand when the case comes up in the apex court again on May 8 for further hearing.

The court had refused to take cognizance of the bill during the last hearing saying that it was not signed by the governor. Now that the governor has refused to sign the bill, the government is likely to close the chapter.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has already hinted that the government will not go for a confrontation with the judiciary. He took such a stand in the light of mounting criticism against the way the government sought to circumvent the court orders.

Many had viewed the government move as an attempt to bail out the two self-financing medical colleges rather than protecting the interest of the students. Social activist N M Pearson said that the government had many other options to protect the interest of the students if its concern were the future of the students.

Congress Working Committee member A.K. Antony said that the Assembly should not have passed the bill since the major beneficiaries were two medical college managements which had persistently challenged successive governments.

He said the treasury and opposition benches should have sought common ground for a legislation that would bring an end to looting by these self-financing colleges. He pointed out that the managements had at all times sabotaged the government decisions favourable to students using court verdicts.

With the governor returning the bill, the only ray of hope for the students and their parents is the permission given by the Supreme Court to them to implead in the case when the case will be taken up on May 8.

The parents are hopeful that the court will take a decision favourable to the students as its current order will only help the college managements.

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