By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Courting controversies and scoring self-goals seem to have become a habit with the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government.
The latest issue in which the LDF government has shot itself in the foot relates to the ordinance by the Kerala Government which sought to regularize admission of 180 students in two medical colleges. The Supreme Court stayed the ordinance, effectively cancelling the admission of these third-year MBBS students – 150 from Kannur Medical College and 30 from Karuna Medical College in Palakkad.
The ordinance sought to ‘blatantly nullify’ the apex court’s order of last year freezing illegal medical admissions in the state. The SC order staying the ordinance also made it clear that no student “shall be permitted to reap any benefit of any action taken and they shall not be permitted to attend college or classes or continue in the medical colleges pursuant to the order.” It also waned that violation of the order “shall be treated seriously by the court.”
On March 22 last year, the SC had cancelled the admission of 180 students in the Kannur Medical College and Karuna Medical College owing to irregularities in the admission procedure.
The order sends a strong message to the managements of self-financing colleges that there would be no tolerance of admission irregularities even if it meant endangering the future of the students involved.
In a rare show of unity, the government and the opposition then joined hands to pass a bill in the state Assembly which sought to turn the ordinance into law – ostensibly to save the students half way through their MBBS course. However, the real aim of the move is to placate the powerful management lobby of self-financing colleges, it is alleged.
There is an air of uncertainty over the bill, which has been sent to the Governor for his assent. But legal experts say the Governor, a former SC chief justice, is unlikely to give his assent in view of the SC’s stay of the ordinance.
Major fallout of the unanimous passage of the bill has been a division in both the Congress and the BJP. Former KPCC chief V M Sudheeran set the ball rolling by openly criticizing the Congress-led UDF’s support to get the Bill passed. Leader of the opposition, Ramesh Chennithala, however, defended the action saying that the opposition backed the bill on humanitarian grounds to protect the future of the affected students. The intention was not to validate the violation of law by the managements of the two medical colleges in focus, he added.
Likewise, the issue saw the BJP leaders coming out with contradictory statements. Rajya Sabha member V. Muraleedharan opposed the support extended to the bill by BJP state chief Kummanam Rajashekharan and the party’s lone MLA O Rajagopal. The BJP cannot condone corruption in the name of protecting the future of students, he opined.
The ball is now in the court of the Governor. He can return the bill seeking further clarifications. If the government decides to go ahead with the bill, ignoring the opposition to it and furore it has created, then it can return the bill to the Governor with clarifications. If the Governor still refuses to sign it, the government may stop pursuing the matter at that stage. If the Governor grants his assent, the Medical Council of India may move the court questioning its validity.
Whatever the decision of the Governor, the government has lost its face. It has exposed itself to the criticism that by getting the bill passed by the assembly, in the name of protecting the future of the students, it has, in effect, sought to validate the violation of law indulged in by the managements. The government, the opposition contends, could have explored other avenues to save the students instead of pushing ahead with the bill despite the SC’s criticism. The government also lost an opportunity to penalize the erring medical colleges by cancelling their registration, they argue. In conclusion, it can be said with certainty that the government will have to pay a heavy price in legal, moral and political terms in the long run. (IPA Service)