AIIMS row flares up, Venugopal asked to obey governing body orders


New Delhi : The tussle between All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Director P. Venugopal and Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss reached a flashpoint Monday with the eminent cardiologist being literally asked to simply carry out the orders of the institute governing body headed by the minister.

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The governing body, through its two-hour meeting held at the ministry (Nirman Bhawan) in a "cordial atmosphere", virtually asked Venugopal to implement the decisions taken at the last meeting held on Jan 24.

At the Jan 24 meeting, the high-power governing body had set up a committee headed by Health Secretary Naresh Dayal to analyse the promotion of doctors as the ministry had received several letters from faculty members that promotions had not taken place for the last few years.

"All the decisions taken at the last meeting were reiterated today. It was further decided that the decision will be immediately implemented and a compliance report given to the governing body," Dayal told reporters.

Venugopal's authority was further curtailed as the governing body empowered Ramadoss to take a final decision on selecting a lawyer to represent AIIMS in quota-related cases in court. It has been alleged that Ramadoss was spending the institute's fund to get lawyers and "fighting against the institute's autonomy".

The secretary said the final decision to appoint a lawyer "will be taken by the president".

He further said that the ministry would issue a show cause notice to AIIMS faculty association for censuring the report prepared by University Grants Commission chief S K. Thorat on caste-based discrimination at the country's premier referral hospital.

The three-member Thorat Committee in its report had said that caste based discrimination is rampant on the campus and held AIIMS administration headed by Venugopal responsible for the anti-quota agitation in 2006.

As soon as the decision to issue a show cause notice was announced, members of the faculty waiting outside shouted slogans against Ramadoss. They also took Venugopal away from the press briefing area.

Meanwhile, AIIMS faculty association, resident doctors association and students' union indirectly condemned Ramadoss and Dayal.

"We democratically elected organisations of AIIMS strongly condemn the move by certain members of the governing body of AIIMS, who try to muzzle the voice of democracy in the campus," a statement issued by the AIIMS chief protocol and senior doctors Raju Singh said.

"This gag order is not acceptable. We are shocked at the insulting behaviour shown towards our director by the governing body (GB) members. The statements issued by the health secretary, supposedly on behalf of the GB are not only against the democratic voice but also against the AIIMS Act and the vision envisaged for this great institution by the founding fathers," the statement said.

In a defiant tone against the GB proceedings, the communiqu� also said: "Institute will follow the Acts, Rules and Regulations. Nobody is above the rules. Every decision taken by GB has to stand the scrutiny of the law."

And all this happened even as the Supreme Court Monday advised Ramadoss and Venugopal to give up their "personal differences" in the interest of the premier institute.

A bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan gave the piece of advice while reminding the two of the recent Delhi High Court order, which had said, "The president (Ramadoss) and the director (Venugopal) are expected to leave their personal esteem and differences behind in the larger public interest and work together in the interest of AIIMS, an institute of international recognition."