A postgraduate medical seat in a government college is a national resource by itself, and therefore, meritorious candidates who secure admission to such seats must not discontinue the course at will, much to the disadvantage of another student who could have joined the course, the Madras High Court has said.
Acting Chief Justice T. Raja and Justice D. Bharatha Chakravarthy made the observation while dismissing a writ appeal preferred jointly by the selection committee of the Directorate of Medical Education (DME) and the Dean of Madras Medical College (MMC) in 2023 against an order passed by a single judge of the High Court in 2019.
The first Division Bench upheld Justice G. Jayachandran’s June 27, 2019 order which directed the DME as well as the Dean of MMC to return the MBBS degree certificate as well as transfer certificate to writ petitioner R. Aashritha, without insisting upon her paying discontinuation fees of ₹ 15 lakh, only due to an ambiguity in the prospectus.
Authoring the verdict for the Bench, Justice Chakravarthy pointed out that the petitioner had participated in the second round of counselling on April 17, 2019 and was allotted MD (tuberculosis and respiratory diseases) under the all-India quota at MMC. She paid the tuition fees on the same day and joined the course on May 1, 2019.
Within two days thereafter, she discontinued the course. In an affidavit filed in support of her writ petition seeking return of her original educational certificates without insisting upon her to pay the discontinuation fees, she claimed to have discontinued the course on May 3, 2019 because her family had arranged for her wedding. .
Assailing the single judge’s order allowing her writ petition, standing counsel M. Sneha contended that those who get seats allocated under the all-India quota, but discontinue the course after the last phase counselling, must pay the discontinuation fees because that seat would not get returned to the State quota and would, consequently, go waste.
Despite finding force in her submission, the Division Bench said, the person who had authored the prospectus had created an ambiguity with respect to payment of discontinuation fees and therefore, the benefit of such ambiguity would enure to the benefit of the student, who would not be required to pay the discontinuation fees.
The Bench said, though clause 24(c) of the prospectus stated that candidates who discontinue the course after the last phase of counselling must pay the discontinuation fees, clause 27(a) stated to the contrary that those who discontinue after the cut-off date of May 31, 2019 must pay the penalty as mentioned in clause 27(a).
In view of the contradiction between the two clauses and taking into account that the writ petitioner had discontinued on May 3, 2019 itself, the Division Bench held that the student need not pay the discontinuation fees. Nevertheless, in their parting remarks, the judges advised students to be careful and not let medical seats go waste.
“Candidates should consider that a post graduation medical seat is a national resource by itself and that there was another candidate who missed the seat just by a fraction of marks and therefore, should be more careful in planning their career and personal life. Only because of the ambiguity in the prospectus, the appeal is being dismissed,” Justice Chakravarthy wrote.