The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday upheld the decision of Kasturba Medical College (KMC), Manipal, in discharging a research student, who was pursuing his M.Phil in Clinical Psychology, on the allegation of “molesting” a 12-year-old mentally challenged patient on the pretext of examining her. Justice Anand Byrareddy held that the action of the KMC and Manipal University, to which the college is affiliated, in denying him an opportunity to obtain the degree is “certainly justified when they have acted in the interest of the profession and the institution in holding that the petitioner was undeserving of the qualification, given his deplorable conduct which attracted even criminal liability.”

The court passed the order while dismissing a petition filed by 27-year-old K. Shoukkathali, a native of Cherushola of Malappuram district in Kerala. He had questioned his removal (on October 14, 2009) from the course while seeking a direction to the college to allow him to complete the course by writing the final examination as he had completed internal examinations and submitted thesis for evaluation.

The petitioner had said that he had not “molested” the patient as alleged by the girl’s father but had examined her as per the standard procedure and norms of the Rehabilitation Council of India. He had said that the college did not follow the principles of natural justice as he was not supplied with a copy of the complaint and the preliminary inquiry report to defend himself, though he was given an opportunity to submit his explanation.

He had said that his sister too was a mentally challenged person, suffering from epilepsy. Hence, he had first-hand experience in handling such patients, and her health condition had motivated him to choose the particular course.

The girl was referred to the Clinical Psychology Department, to which he was attached, on July 9, 2009 for psychology evaluation as the doctors had felt that joint pain was suspected to be psychological in nature. It was stated by the girl’s father in the complaint that the petitioner, after initially examining the girl in the presence of the parents, had asked them to go out for further examination of the girl. It was complained that the girl was found to have been disturbed after the medical examination.

The court found that the petitioner’s defence that his examination of the patient was “not ill-intended or lecherous” was met with the victim’s version, which is supported by the statement of a woman-psychologist, who later interacted with the victim, and another staff member.